Our Readers Write
Dreaming of Spring (and Sailing)
January 31, 2006
Face facts. January's not a great month for
paddling. At least it isn't along most of the borderland between Canada and
the United States. Still, things are looking up. When "Our Readers Write"
appeared on these pages, the sun was still heading south, and General
Winter had only begun to lay siege to Canoe Country. Now, however, the sun
has turned round, and notwithstanding the snowy ramparts still rising
outside our windows, the General's forces are in retreat. Spring is on the
way. At last.
Of course, Winter's not ready to surrender yet. Despite the recent "heat
wave" Farwell just ventured out in shorts and a sleeveless mesh top,
returning unscathed a little while later from a refreshing jog along an
unseasonably silent and smogless snowmobile trail it will be a couple
of months (or more) before many of the rivers in northern North America run
free again. But that doesn't mean paddlers can't look ahead to the coming
season, does it? Readers of In the Same Boat are doing so, at any
rate. Our mailbag is proof of that. In fact, we've gotten so many letters
that there isn't room here for even a representative sample without making
this month's "Our Readers Write" longer than War and Peace. So some
letters will just have to wait till May. The upside? They'll be every bit as
interesting then as now.
And while we're speaking of looking ahead.
In the hopes of getting
a little more free time for paddling (not to mention hiking, cycling, and
watching high clouds scud across the full moon), we're changing the way we
do things around "Our Readers Write." In the past we've contacted all the
readers whose letters have appeared here, asking their express permission to
reprint what they've written. And almost without exception I think
we've gotten two turn-downs in six years everyone we've written to
has replied, "Sure! Go ahead." So from here on out, we're going to assume
that folks who write to us won't mind if we reprint their letters. That
is, we'll assume it's OK to do so unless the writer tells us otherwise. What
does this mean? It's simple. If you don't want the world to know what's on
your mind, just mention this when you write to us. We'll always honor your
wishes. Otherwise we'll assume you won't be offended to see your letter (and
name) in "Our Readers Write" at some future date. Are there any exceptions? Yes.
There are always exceptions, aren't there? In cases where the subject of a letter
is controversial or obviously personal, or where a letter is unusually long
(more than 250 words, say), we'll defer publication until we get the
writer's express permission. But in most instances, we won't bother. We hope
this isn't a problem. We know it will save us a lot of time.
On a related subject.
We've finally caught up with all the
outstanding column correspondence. At least we think we have. If you haven't
gotten a reply to a note you sent us in the last three months or so,
give us a shout. We'll get back to you ASAP. And please accept our heartfelt
thanks for your patience.
Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest,
In the Same Boat
Escape to the Okefenokee!
Let me strongly suggest a winter paddling trip to the Okefenokee Swamp in
Georgia. A paddler can experience the joys of
swamp paddling, view wildlife (reptiles, mammals, and birds), and avoid
the summer heat, flies, and mosquitoes! I've been 10 times with varying size
groups. We have never been disappointed.
Always enjoy your articles.
North Augusta, South Carolina
It's very good to hear from you again, Art, and I'm glad you like "In
the Same Boat." While a winter paddling trip to the Okefenokee would
certainly be a welcome respite from North Country snow and ice, I won't be
making it down your way in the next few months. I'm recovering from an
encounter with the surgeon's knife, and though I'm healing well, I'll be on
"light duty" until spring. Still, a trip to (and through) the Okefenokee is
high on my to-do list. I've always wanted to visit Pogo's old stomping
grounds. Next year, with luck!
Improving the Ties That Bind
Yet another great article ["The Ties That
Bind" -ed]. A couple of comments:
1) For sea kayaking, my niece made up hat tethers from nylon cord and
Radio Shack alligator clips. These clips come in a variety of sizes and grip
strengths. They have a crimp receptacle for the wire insulation, but it is
plenty good for nylon cord as well. They're handy, and the more robust ones
will most definitely not blow off in a gale but they'll still
come apart in an emergency.
2) Among climbers, glove tethers are called "Idiot Straps" for obvious
reasons. Among climbers past a certain age, the tether ends are almost
always sewn securely to the gloves, and they're almost always strung inside
the parka through the sleeves to avoid entanglements. Why are they
sewn? Sooner or later in some extremity or another, it'll seem like a
good idea to unclip one glove, and if you do, you're screwed. Far better not
to have that as an option.
I'm glad you enjoyed "The Ties That Bind," Fred. Just where would we
outdoorsfolk be without Radio Shack, I wonder? I know I'd be lost without
them. A couple of Radio Shack antenna clamps anchor the fender stays to the
oversize shock forks of my
"amphibious" bike, for instance, and only last week I picked up a cheap
amplifying microphone. It should be just the thing for capturing the
"Idiot straps"? That's a wonderfully evocative phrase! And despite being
a sometime climber of a certain age myself, I'd never heard it before
though I still use an "inside the parka [and] through the sleeves" tether from
time to time, complete with tiny snap-links that make it possible to remove
individual gloves or mittens at will. And how do I avert potential disaster?
By tying the over-the-shoulder tether round the hanging loop on my parka.
That keeps the mate to the glove I've just removed from making an untimely
break for freedom. Alligator-clip tethers might be a less fussy alternative,
though. I'll certainly give them a try. Thanks for the tip!
Cleaning Up in the Backcountry
I always read your articles and do enjoy them. Two alternatives not
mentioned in "Mopping-Up
Operations" include No-Rinse® Body Wash and No-Rinse® Shampoo.
I have used both these products which I've found to be very effective and
easy to use. They can be purchased from Campmor and in many backpack/outdoor
Thank you, Wayne both for your kind words and for the
heads-up. Much appreciated! Sounds like these could be just the ticket for
saltwater excursions, or anyplace else where clean, fresh water is hard to
find. (Water may not be in short supply on most paddling trips, but
clean water often is.)
The Cup That Cheers
Tao of Tea.
What about just boiling the water and throwing the tea leaves in the pot?
Glad you enjoyed the article, David. Thanks for writing.
What's wrong with making tea in the same pot you use to boil the water?
In a word nothing. Still, if you use a separate teapot or billy
you'll leave your water boiler free for other chores. That's the reason I
usually brew tea right in my cup on one-pot trips.
There's a problem with this approach, though: Tea steeped for more than
about five minutes in the pot or cup will acquire a bitter taste from
extracted tannins. (Most of the caffeine comes out in the first few minutes;
the tannins take somewhat longer.) That's why a second pot made from old
leaves is usually both bitter and weak. Of course, some folks like their tea
to taste this way. If you're not among them, however, just match the amount
of water you put into the pot to the number of tea drinkers and pour off all
the tea as soon as the brewing's done. The downside? If anyone wants a
second cup, you'll have to brew up another pot with fresh tea leaves.
Don't Read This If You're Dieting!
I read your cheese piece ["Just Say
CHEESE!"-ed] with glee. I own a cheese shop here in Denver, and I always
travel with cheese on canoe trips. Others may open cans of weiners or potato
chips or dried-up granola bars or some dehydrated crap in a pack. Me? I set
out my little Iranian hand-woven rug on the ground. It's only 24 inches by
18. On top of this I place a simple wooden board. Onto this I place my
cheeses, perhaps some dried figs, a little Spanish chorizo sausage, maybe a
duck-leg confit. Depends on the occasion.
I particularly enjoy Roncal, an aged Basque sheep's milk cheese from
northern Spain. Vella Dry Jack from Sonoma County also serves me well. Piave
from northern Italy is especially soothing after a long day. Of course, good
cheese requires a little wine [also at the end of the day -ed]. I use a
Spanish bota (a soft leather pouch) which holds the equivalent of two bottles
saves weight on glass. Camp conversation, needless to say, always turns
to the cheese! I have learned to bring a little extra to share and to do a little
shameless marketing on the side.
Thanks for the story!
St. Kilian's Cheese Shop
"Shameless marketing"? Not at all, Hugh. Call it consumer education.
Never forget that unbridled enthusiasm in defense of gastronomy is no vice,
nor is restraint in the pursuit of good living on the trail a virtue.
Glad you found my article of interest. I certainly enjoyed your virtual feast.
Thanks for writing.
Better Ways to Harness the Wind
I really enjoyed your article on canoe sailing ["Ways to
Harness the Wind" -ed]. I have "dabbled" in the sport over the years and
am currently in the process of building a rig to compete in American Canoe
Association (ACA) races. If you haven't already explored the ACA National Sailing Committee website,
it's probably the most comprehensive on canoe sailing. It also gives details
on building your own rig. These rigs have been tried and tested over the
years, unlike most of the add-on rigs sold by canoe companies
Grumman's being a prime example of a sailing rig that does not perform well
(either their gunter or lateen). The ACA 44-square-foot lateen will out-sail
any of the commercial rigs at a fraction of the cost.
Thanks again for the article.
You're welcome, John. I'm delighted that you enjoyed "Ways to Harness the
Wind." Thanks, too, for the link to the ACA National Sailing Committee
webpages. While I'm no racer I've even sailed a stock, lateen-rigged
Grumman canoe with pleasure! I've already found much of interest on
the ACA pages.
A Great DISCOVERY!
Loved your article on "Putting the
Old Woman to Work." Described the evolution of my canoe sailing! Thought
I'd send you a link to the web page showing what I did
with my little Old Town Discovery 119, an 11-foot-9-inch canoe.
Keep those articles coming.
Will do, G.F., and many thanks for the link to your webpages. I can't
think when I've seen a better illustration of the wonderful versatility of
the open canoe. (Or the power of inspired improvisation, for that matter.)
Perhaps your example will encourage others to discover just how much fun
sailing and rowing a short ship can be. I certainly hope so.
Picking the Perfect Paddle
I am about to become a beginner paddler. I'm getting an Old Town Ojibway,
and I'm trying to figure out how to pick a paddle. I wanted to go with a
kayak paddle, so I wouldn't need to switch or
J-stroke. How do I decide on paddle length, whether for a traditional
paddle or a kayak paddle? I'm about six feet tall. In northern Arizona we
have mostly lakes, but a little whitewater in the spring. Any
Welcome to a great sport, Mike! You'll find general suggestions for
deciding on paddle length in "Choosing a Canoe
Paddle" and "Choosing a Kayak
Paddle." But while these are good starting points, selecting a paddle
remains a rather idiosyncratic process, with lots of canoeists and kayakers
using blades that defy the orthodox "wisdom" of outdoor writers. How can
this be? Well, many other factors besides length body proportions and
paddling "style," the diameter of the paddle shaft, the size and shape of
the blade(s), and the rigidity of both shaft and blade, to name only a few
will influence whether or not a paddle feels right in your hands. And
ultimately, this elusive thing called "feel" is key.
That said, if you're still of a mind to get a double
blade a good choice, in my opinion, particularly for a solo
canoeist I'd suggest you start with an eight-foot (245-cm) paddle.
Don't worry about differences of an inch or two either way, however, and
don't spend too much money. You may not like the length. Better yet, borrow
or rent several paddles of different lengths in the range between 240 and
260 centimeters and give them all a good workout on protected waters. Then
buy the blade that feels best to you. It's that simple. Or that hard.
Rigging a Klepper for Sail
I found your article about sailing ["Ways to
Harness the Wind" -ed] very interesting. Question: Where can I find
specs for the International Canoe (IC)? I currently have a Klepper
Aerius II and I would like to increase the performance. The length on
ICs is about the same, but I'm having difficulty finding info on the beam.
Many Klepper owners make a good deal of modifications to optimize
performance, mainly by balancing the rudder, adding down-haul rigging, and
fitting a cleat board. Here's what I'm thinking about:
The cross member for the leeboards on Kleppers tends to drag a bit in the
water when these boats are heeled over, and I believe adding a sliding
hiking seat could flatten them out a bit more. Most Klepper owners seem to
prefer not hiking out and opt for more forgiving sail rigs smaller or
after-market, etc.. I realize that ICs aren't noted for being forgiving
rigs, but until recently they were known to be the fastest boats in their
class. The largest sail rig Klepper provides for the Aerius II is about
half that of these canoes.
Increased Sail Area
When I questioned another website, I was referred to schooner rigs for
more sail area. I'm not sure that a second mast is in the direction I'm
interested in going. It seems that this may be even more complicated to
operate than a standard sloop. Another option was for a spinnaker. Again,
these seem more complicated and only effective downwind or on a broad reach.
I'm also worried that with too much foresail on a Klepper, even an
Aerius II, that the bow may want to dive under. I believe that a sloop
rig is probably the easiest answer.
I'm currently using a rudder that is more efficient than a traditional
Klepper rudder. This rudder is more like modern standard kayak rudders. I
believe a slight increase in efficiency could be achieved by increasing the
blade ahead of the pivot point by 20 percent. This should increase the
responsiveness. With increased sail area, would it be necessary to have a
deeper rudder? The modern trend in Kleppers is a better balanced rudder than
the traditional version. The traditional rudder, it seems, has more tail and
creates drag that can easily stall a sail rig.
Could moving the leeboards forward or aft have much effect on leeway?
Also could changing the blade size help? What about using aluminum instead
ICs seem to have more weight than Kleppers. Would it be necessary to
add ballast for optimum performance?
Kleppers, being folding boats, fall in a grey area of
classification. Nobody, including some officials, can seem to give me an
answer whether or not they need to be registered when under sail.
Thanks in advance for any time you put into this.
Andreas Mantzke (aka Kapitän von Klepper)
I'm glad you found my article interesting, Andreas. To answer your first
question, the beam of an International Canoe is 1.018 meters (a bit more
than 40 inches). You'll find this and a good deal more, besides
on the webpages of the International Canoe
Before moving on to other, more technical matters, I ought to note that
I'm a rather lazy sailor, with little experience in rig design or tuning
beyond trimming the sail, 'board, and ballast under way, that is.
There are sure to be many readers more knowledgeable than I. Perhaps they'll
be able to suggest points I've overlooked, or answer questions that I can't:
your question about classification, for example. The intricacies of racing
classes aside this is an area where my ignorance is absolute
U.S. states vary wonderfully in their registration requirements, and
regulatory bodies overseeing some inland waterways impose their own rules,
into the bargain. Generally speaking, any boat moving under sail is
considered a sailboat (unless it also has a motor, in which case it's a
motorboat or "motorized sailboat"), and a sailboat's LOA (length overall) is
frequently the factor which determines whether or not it must be registered.
After this relatively straightforward beginning, however, all is chaos, with
the further complicating factor that "visiting" craft (boats normally kept
in another state) may be subject to still more arcane regulations, whether
or not they must be registered in their home state. And of course other
countries will have other rules. All in all, local enquiry is probably the
OK. Turning to a topic I know a bit more about: I share your doubts
concerning the practicality of "two-stick" (schooner, yawl, or ketch) rigs
in a Klepper, or any other kayak, for that matter. While yawl rigs were
common in nineteenth-century sailing canoes, these were purpose-built,
plank-on-frame craft, and they were often heavily ballasted. I also question
whether the increased fussiness was offset by any comparable improvement in
downwind performance and I expect upwind performance suffered, as
well. In my view, therefore, two-stick rigs are best reserved for historic
reconstructions. Still, folks who like to pull on strings will certainly
have fun with them, even if other sailors will probably prefer something
simpler. A sloop or cat (una) rig gets my vote in a canoe or kayak. And on
that score, I'd also avoid flying a spinnaker from a kayak. Any
kayak. While I'm sure it can be done, it's just too fussy for my taste. On
the other hand, parasails have been used with considerable success by some
kayakers for downwind runs. (But not, I'm afraid, by me.)
Moving on to the subject of leeboards: Shifting these fore and aft will
affect your boat's balance, of course, since it changes the relationship
between the Center of Effort (CE) and the Center of Lateral Resistance
(CLR). (As you probably know, this is how sailboarders steer their 'boards
though they do so by changing the rake of the mast under way, rather
than sliding the keel fore and aft.) All other things being equal, moving
the leeboard aft will cause your boat's bow to fall off the wind (i.e.,
increase lee helm). Moving it forward, on the other hand, will make the boat
round up (i.e., increase weather helm).
And now to ballast: I wouldn't think you'd want any fixed ballast
in your boat, though a modest trimming weight might come in handy. (A 10-20 liter
water bag should do the trick. Adjust the fill-level depending on the weight
of the crew and any cargo, but always leave at least a little airspace in
the bag so it will float in a capsize.) You're the principal ballast, obviously,
and a hiking board if one can be secured to the
Klepper's cockpit, and if the coaming stands the strain will
permit you to make the most of your mass, though a sudden wind shift will
certainly test your reflexes! A taller rig may indeed require a longer
leeboard and a deeper rudder, however. That said, the relationship between
total lateral plane (leeboard area plus rudder area plus immersed hull) and
upwind performance is a complicated one, particularly in a craft fitted with
a hiking board. I also suspect that the aspect ratio of the foil (leeboard)
is of more importance than the material used. In any case, all such
questions are best answered by experimentation, although I'm betting you'll
find much of interest (and practical use) in two books by C.A. Marchaj:
Sailing Theory and Practice (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1964) and
Aero-Hydrodynamics of Sailing, 2d ed (International Marine, 1988).
Both will repay a look.
I hope this helps. I'll be interested in learning how you get on. Please
keep in touch. And best of luck sailing your new rig through the new
Small Birds, Big Hearts
God, this is GOOD ["The Sounds of
Silence" -ed]. No, I mean really, really good!
You really do love and appreciate nature don't you? I love the sounds,
the twittering, the busyness of the chickadees and the tufted titmice, and
watching the little nuthatches scamper backwards down and about the trees. I
am always trying to talk to them in their language. They have come pretty
close to me. Once a chickadee ate food from my hand. What a feeling that
was! I love the creatures and so often feel a connection with them, so much
so that last week I put up a hollow-log birdhouse in memory of a recently
deceased friend. Hopefully some little chickadee or titmouse or nuthatch
will get to use it to help keep warm on one of those cold nights.
Gosh I love this article!
Aw, shucks, Chris, it weren't nothin'.
Seriously, though, I can't
think of a better memorial to an absent friend than your birdhouse. I know
I'd be proud to be remembered that way. These little birds DO have big
hearts, rising to almost every challenge and greeting each dawn, no matter
how inclement, with unwavering fortitude. It reminds me of Captain Call's
elegy for Deets in Lonesome Dove: "Cheerful in all weathers. Never
sherked a task. Splendid behaviour." Only a few words, maybe, and spelling
wasn't Captain Call's strong suit, but he left no doubt how he felt.
Well, that's it for this time out. We've had rather a lot to say about
sailing, but then what could be a better subject for daydreams sorry,
plans when there's snow in the air? We can't think of anything
better, at any rate. Spring can't come too soon! As always, our heartfelt
thanks to everyone who took the time to send us their comments and
questions, not to mention the many hints and tips. Keep telling us what's on
your mind. After all, it's "Our Readers Write."
Editors' note: As we mentioned earlier, we're going to
change the way we handle mail around In the Same Boat in future. From
now on, we'll assume that it's OK to reprint any letter we receive,
unless the writer tells us otherwise. Letters will still be subject
to editing before publication, and we reserve the right to add links to
articles or other resources where appropriate. Please note that we receive
many more letters than we can reprint, and sometimes we get more than we can
answer promptly. We do our best, however. So if a couple of weeks or more
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 certainly appreciate the
Copyright © 2006 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights