Our Readers Write
Shank of the Year
October 31, 2006
The last time
Write" appeared, summer's lease hadn't yet expired, even if hints of
autumn were in the air here in Canoe Country. But that's history. Snow has
already dusted the hills, frost often leaves its tracery on our windows, and
the plaintive honk of Canada geese is rarely heard. The warblers and great
blue herons have also headed for more temperate climes, while all but the
boldest chipmunks have retreated to their dens for the Big Sleep. Many
northern paddlers are thinking about hibernating, too. After all, the season
of hard water will soon be upon us, and it's not easy to paddle an
icebreaker. Despite the imminence of winter's return to Canoe Country,
however, our In-Box continues to fill up with letters from readers with
something on their minds. Want to know what they've been saying? Then read
on. It's "Our Readers Write."
First, though, we have to discharge a melancholy duty. While we welcome
all reader mail, not every letter in our mailbag brings us good news, and
this month's mail contained just such a letter. In the years since Tamia
wrote "The River
Warden," quite a few readers have asked her how they, too, could get
hold of a book she mentioned in her article: Lawrence Wishner's Eastern
Chipmunks: Secrets of Their Solitary Lives. And Tamia's always been
happy to oblige. The book is a fascinating read, as quirky and engaging as
its little subjects and a benchmark study for amateur naturalists,
into the bargain. Indeed, as the words themselves suggest, most "amateur
naturalists" are folks who are head over heels in love with the natural
world. Lawrence Wishner certainly was. His book is evidence of that.
But human life like the northern summer has far too short a
lease. Early this month a reader wrote to tell us that Dr. Wishner had
just died, and while we knew the author of Eastern Chipmunks only
through his work, we feel his loss keenly. Our world is left emptier by his
Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest,
In the Same Boat
A "Spectracular" Cord for Repairs
I just read your article ["A First-Aid
Kit for Your Boat" -Ed], and it is great. One thing I would change,
however, is to add a reference to Spectra®. You can get some
parachute-cord-sized Spectra® line at a sailmaker, and it is stronger
than wire and totally non-stretch.
I was on a trip in Maine and I was paddling a used boat which I picked up
on the way. I got in the boat and realized that the rudder cables were
nylon. (I know I should always paddle a boat first, but this one could be
returned.) I couldn't find wire cable anywhere, but I called a sailmaker and
he suggested Spectra®. It works great stronger than wire,
non-stretch, and you can tie a knot in it.
I have had the Spectra® rudder "cables" on for almost two seasons
now and they are still great. I keep enough Spectra® in my boat's
"first aid kit" to repair any cables that I need to.
Thanks for a great article!
What a good idea, John! I hadn't considered using Spectra® as a
cable substitute, and I'm probably not alone. Thanks for the tip.
Duct Tape in the First-Aid Kit? Yes!
There are other uses for duct tape besides the ones you mentioned
for the Times When Everything Comes Unstuck." If you have the misfortune
of having a plantar wart [an extremely painful "vascular papillomatous
growth" on the sole of the foot -Ed], cut a piece of duct tape, cover the
wart, and change the duct-tape dressing every few days. In less than a month
the wart is gone forever. This saves those costly and painful freezing
treatments at the doctor's office. I was very skeptical at first, but I
tried it. My plantar wart had been treated several times by a doctor, and it
just kept coming back, so I figured I had nothing to lose. It worked. It
took a month, but it only took about 25 cents' worth of duct tape and caused
me no pain. I've suffered with plantar warts over the years. This one is
gone with no sign of return, and it's been months.
Another use for duct tape is for ingrown toenails. Place one end of a
piece of duct tape on the skin alongside the offending nail, pull tight, and
wrap around the toe till you come back to the middle of the nail. Stop
there. Change every few days. After the first change you should be able to
tuck a very small piece of cotton under the ingrowing margin of the nail,
and in less than a month the nail should start to grow properly.
Duct tape also repairs a plaster or fiberglass cast in a pinch. I now
keep small rolls of duct tape in several places in the house, and give it as
a wedding-shower gift along with other household essentials. Yes, people
tend to think you're a little nuts until they use it a few times. You
just can't live without it!
I'd never considered including duct tape in my medical kit, Eneda, but
you've convinced me that it belongs there. I'd check with my doctor before
attempting self-treatment for either plantar warts (I've had them myself,
and they make portages a misery) or an ingrown toenail, however
unless I was deep in the backcountry, that is. Thanks for writing!
Cure for Many a Sticky Situation
Funny article ["Help for the
Times When Everything Comes Unstuck" -Ed]. I enjoyed it. If you really
want to get duct tape residue off with minimum damage, try mineral spirits.
You can buy it at your local hardware store. Do not buy turpentine.
Be sure to get mineral spirits. Soak the area with a rag dipped in spirits
and then push the sticky gunk off. This works for most adhesives. You can
even remove those sale-price stickers from books and other articles that you
bought as gifts, without leaving marks or residue. Try it you'll like
Thanks for the hint, Gary! It sounds like a great way to deal with all
sorts of sticky situations.
Bin There, Done That
In reference to "Breaking Away
Secrets of an Escape Artist," I find the Rubbermaid® bins
quite useful for travel. One can leave a bin in the bedroom for clothes, and
just toss things in that you think of, then maybe go through them the night
before. Put one at doorway to the kitchen pantry. Cans and packets of food,
seasonings, plasticware, etc., get tossed in as I cook the last night's
meal. Then there's one for the smaller gear, gloves, cooler cups, matches,
etc., which is near the large gear pile (life jackets and paddles, spray
At camp, the bins are easily moved, and the lids stay on to prevent the
dog from stealing your lunch (or worse!). They even function as tables; I
use a small one in the tent.
Cheap, colorful, and handy they're my kind of gear!
Sara Anne Sherrard
Sounds good to me, Sara. I'm going to give it a try myself. Thanks!
Which Boat is Right for Me?
I'm new to canoeing, but not to loving the water. A friend got me hooked
just a few months ago, and now I'm reading and researching before I
Can you offer some suggestions? My dream canoe trip is to go out onto the
river when it's about 80 degrees out, in the evening when the water is calm
like glass. I am a woman, only 5'6" and slightly over 110 pounds, so am not
packed with muscle. My friend owns an Old Town 167, but I tried carrying it
and it was embarrassing! I need something as light as possible since I will
most likely be canoeing alone. I have a river very close to my home and
would prefer to canoe there, maybe exclusively. No fast water or rapids at
I have done some reading about the Old Town Pack canoe (because it is
shorter and lighter) and checked one out at a nearby sports store, but it
was $700 and something. Ouch! I am willing to buy a used canoe, but
the ones on eBay® most all say "for pick-up only" and they turn out to
be five states away.
Thanks for any suggestions.
Welcome to Paddling.net, Pam! We've written many In the Same Boat
articles for folks just like you. Here are three that should help you get
to Questions that New Paddlers Ask"
You're No Longer a Beginner"
Stroking: Messing About in Boats"
Pack canoes? I'm a fan. Check out "Good Things DO
Come in Small Packages" to see why. But don't stop there. For example,
even though you'll probably find some sit-on-tops to be a little on the
heavy side, you might also want to read "Making Your
Own Beginners' Luck: Tips for First-Time SOT Buyers." Many of the
recommendations in that article apply to all boats, not just SOTs.
That said, while pack canoes can be used by paddlers of all skill levels,
I wouldn't recommend "canoeing alone" to any beginner. Even a farm
pond holds hazards for the solo boater, and novices learn best when they
paddle with more experienced canoeists. They usually have more fun, too. So
look for a few partners. Outfitters, clubs, and colleges are good places to
Unfortunately, no boat new or used is likely to be sturdy,
cheap, and light. Two out of three is the best you can hope for. And
unless you have very deep pockets, the cost of any new boat may come as an
unpleasant surprise. If an Old Town Pack is out of your reach, therefore,
browse the Reviews for less
expensive alternatives, and don't forget to check Paddling.net's own Classified pages for a suitable
used boat. Craigslist (a national Internet-based classified service) and
your local paper are other possibilities. Finally, if the only boat you can
afford weighs you down more than you like, consider putting wheels under it.
Away! Rediscovering the Wheel" can help you sort out the options.
Let me know how things go. And good luck!
A Family Affair? Of Course!
Once again you've written a fine piece ["Making Your
Own Beginners' Luck Tips for First-Time SOT Buyers" -Ed]. I
always enjoy your thought-provoking articles.
Our family added five SOTs to our family fleet of kayaks over the past
year. Our grandchildren (ages five, seven, 10, and 13) are as enamored of
them as is Nana. Though I went over the basics of paddling with them
to which they likely only listened part-time, as usual I signed the
three oldest up for professional lessons. Children will always listen to an
unfamiliar voice better than to the adults they are in contact with day in
and day out. They were attentive, though, when I taught them "safety rescue"
methods. We may live on the backwaters of a dam, and the water may be quiet
out in front of our homes, but paddling is about more than "floating your
You have been a great influence in many things I've learned over the past
seven years regarding camping and kayaking. I hope and pray my grandchildren
will remember me with as much love, and have as many memories as you do
about your grandparents, especially your Grandad. Thanks for sharing your
Your letter made my day, Shirley! I'm delighted that you find our
articles helpful, and it's wonderful that you've introduced your grandkids
to paddling. SOTs are terrific boats, for experienced paddlers and
beginners alike. I'm sure that your grandchildren will always cherish the
time you took to share your love of boating. Thanks for writing.
I can't think of a better note to end on, can you? And as T.S. Eliot
reminds us, to make an end is to make a beginning. Winter may be just around
the corner, but the Wheel of the Year keeps turning. It won't be long till
spring is in the air, and it's never too early to make plans for next year's
paddling season. Be sure to take the grandkids out, too!
As always, our heartfelt thanks to all of you who took the time to send
us your comments and questions, not to mention your many hints and tips.
Keep it up. After all, it is "Our Readers Write."
And now, the usual fine print: We'll assume that it's OK to
reprint any letter you send us, unless you tell us otherwise. (Just
put "Not for Publication" at the head of your letter.) We will never
publish your e-mail address on-line unless you specifically ask us to,
however. Letters may also be edited for length and clarity, and we'll add
links to articles or other resources wherever and whenever
Copyright © 2006 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights