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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

The Over-the-Hill Gang Speaks Out!
And an Unsolved Mystery —
Will You Have the Answer?

January 30, 2007

It's hard to believe that the last time "Our Readers Write" appeared, children of all ages were putting the finishing touches on Halloween costumes. Now northern paddlers are chipping ice off their cars' windshields, while folks living in more temperate latitudes are making the most of the cool weather. Still, even if snow is falling throughout Canoe Country, winter's grip on the land is loosening. The sun climbs higher in the sky with every passing day, and southern breezes tease us with hints of the spring to come. It won't be long before geese are following the sun on its northward trek.

No matter what the season, however, canoeing and kayaking are never far from the minds of In the Same Boat readers, many of whom intend to keep paddling long after their contemporaries have settled down in their La-Z-Boys for good. You'll find a few of our readers' stories here. First, though, we invite everyone to help us solve a mystery. The game's afoot, Watson! There's not a moment to lose!

— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat


The Mystery of the "Adirondack Wheel"

Hi, Folks!

When I had access to the Adirondack Mountains in the '50s, I learned about a single bicycle-wheel device which was designed to carry camping or other gear. I think it was referred to as the "Adirondack Wheel," and it was pulled like pulling a wheelbarrow backwards. I think there was also a tumpline used to assist in pulling, but an upper-body harness connected to the device's handles would be a better way to travel.

I used to hike with 80- to 100-pound packs without too much trouble. Those days are over for me now, though, and I'm looking for a better way. If you know of such a device, please let me know.

Thank you for any help you are able to offer.

Will Koenitzer

• • •

Tamia replies:

You've got me, Will. Although Farwell and I kicked around the Adirondacks in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, neither of us can recall seeing anything quite like the gadget you describe. (There were once two-wheel carts at the ends of some of the longer portages, but that's not the same thing, is it?) Nor do I remember my sometime Adirondack guide grandfather ever mentioning a one-wheeled cart, and a quick check of my bookshelves turned up nothing relevant in either historian Paul Jamieson's Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow or Adirondack Museum curator Hallie Bond's Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks.

In short, we're stumped. But maybe someone else can do better. What about it, readers? Can you help Will out? If so, please drop us a line. We'll pass your information along to Will pronto.


Moving on, now.… Tamia certainly struck a chord with "There IS a Paddling Life After 50." Our mailbox overflowed with letters from readers who refuse to let the calendar dictate how they live their lives. Here are only a few:

One Foot in the Grave? Not On Your Life!

Hi, Tamia!

Great story. It puts it all in perspective as I turn 49 years old in December, and move by myself to Washington, D.C., to a new job and to find new paddling friends. Yes, new aches and pains, but I still play kick ball with a bunch of 20-30–somethings — though I will throw in the "old card" when I know I need a break. I want to enjoy life outside, not in the Lay-Z-Boy®. Thanks again for a wonderful story.

Conrad J. ("Jim") Harbuck

• • •

Tamia replies:

Being able to play the "old card" sure is one benefit of advancing years, Jim. And it's one I intend to use liberally!


Short and Sweet

Dear Tamia,

I have to thank you for a most fantastic article! Absolutely fabulous! Thanks for the great read!

Margie Williams

• • •

Tamia replies:

Aw, shucks, Margie. You're welcome. 'Tweren't nothin'!


It's Just Common Sense

Dear Tamia,

Loved the article. More information in there than in most books. Of course, the best part is that it's common sense that saves us. I just finished my echocardiogram stress test and am set to go. My kayak is hanging up in the garage right now, waiting for warmer weather. (Cold allergies. If I was in the water…well…the other foot would be where we don't want it!)

Loved my first season of kayaking in lakes around our area. Peaceful, quiet, time to practice and enjoy.

Thanks for a great article.

Janice M. Biscoe


Falling Apart, but Paddling Together

Dear Tamia,

Great article. I'm an ole fart who is falling apart physically. The really good thing is, I love kayaking and go every chance I get. I'm not 60 yet, but I'm pushing it — WAY out of my way, hopefully! Recently went kayaking with my 28-year-old son, in Columbia, South Carolina. I can honestly say "da boy" didn't out-paddle me (though he probably could have, had he been a mean little son and tried to). Anyway, we had a really good couple of days with the kayaks. I do mainly calm — as in "slick as glass" — paddling. I love it! My wife and I are opposites there. She can't swim too great, and we live on a river and creek! She's a very kind wife, though, and she "allows" me to paddle to my heart's content. Actually, I think she's glad I'm away from home so she can relax! Just wanted you to know that people DO read the stories in Paddling.net. I know I do. Ya did good. Good story, good information, and good reading. Thanks.

Kent


Fighting Back Against Back Pain

Hey, Tamia!

Great article! One note that was preaching to the choir, though: I used to have terrible problems with back pain. Since I started paddling the pain has become less frequent and more manageable. I woke up on the second day of the 2005 Adirondack Fall Classic with the old back pain. Started the race and did the portages no problem. Couldn't sleep well or sit in a car, but I could carry a 48-pound Minn2 up the hills. Before I started this insanity they call canoe racing I would have dropped out and suffered for a month or so before it worked its way out. So now I subscribe to my friend Jim Normandins' philosophy — "Paddle till you're 98"!

Charlie Swengros

• • •

Tamia replies:

Paddle till you're 98? Sounds great to me, Charlie. But why stop then?


Another Paddling Prescription for a Bad Back

Nice article, Tamia!

Although I'm not yet 50 years old, canoeing was just what my doctor ordered a few decades ago. I'd been a kayaker as a teen and had totally forgotten about my skills until I went to the doc with bad back problems. "Do more exercise to strengthen your back muscles," he told me, "or you'll end up in a wheelchair sooner or later. And if you don't want to do it on the floor, get in a boat." (He was a canoeist.) Needless to say, I got the message, and I own more canoes now than pairs of shoes. And the doc was right — my back problems are almost gone. ("Almost" means that I always have an excuse to go canoeing.)

Happy paddling! See you on the water.

Peter Kozlik
CRCA Certified Canoe Instructor and Advanced Wilderness Medic

"At the foot of any rapid, it is far better to be sorry one did not run the rapid than to be sorry that one did!"

• • •

Tamia replies:

Who can argue with a prescription to get out and mess around in a boat? Not I!


Retiring to the Active Life

Dear Tamia,

Thanks for the great article on exercise — especially paddling — and aging. I only took up sea kayaking three years ago at 50+ and it has changed the course of my life. I am now planning to retire in 2008 on the South Carolina coast just so that I can paddle year-round in both surf and on flatwater. It was not an area I had previously even considered living in. I visited Alaska last month for the first time and wistfully looked at all the really exciting kayaking trips that one could take if one was much younger, much fitter, and much more experienced than I, but thanks to your article I think I have many good years of kayaking ahead of me. I can roll my 17-foot Current Designs boat about 20 percent of the time, and with a little extra practice in retirement, maybe I'll have a bomb-proof roll in time for my 60th birthday.

Michael Carakostas


Full Circle — The Wheel Turns Round

Dear Tamia,

Another one of your excellent articles, especially for us over 50 and still kicking and paddling. I also enjoy following all the hyperlinks to your earlier articles. The link to carts ["Rediscovering the Wheel" -Ed.] prompted me to reply with a correction, however: There are many carts that will fit in a kayak. Even properly sized mid-mounted (as opposed to stern-mounted) carts will squeeze in — and in narrower Greenland-style kayaks, too. It is a challenge picking the right ones, of course, which is why I own six different carts to fit my canoe, kayaks, SOTs, and rowing shell. But I never have to leave my cart at the ramp or beach.

Joe Hamilton

• • •

Tamia replies:

Good point, Joe. Just because many kayaks don't have the carrying capacity of most canoes, that doesn't meant there isn't room for a carefully chosen cart. Where there's a will, there's a way — and your home fleet is proof of that!


Keep On Keeping On!
Tips for Aging Paddlers

Dear Tamia,

As I was about to post the first review anywhere of my new Hurricane Aquasports Santee Expedition Sport, I noticed your very timely article. I have my first chemically-induced stress test next week, and am filled with dread. I am closing in on 63 years old, 300 pounds, diabetic, hypertensive, and had a stent implanted after a major heart attack in November 2003. After a Hollywood acting career I retired to the Florida Panhandle purely to pursue my first love — kayaking flatwater. I can add a couple of suggestions for those amongst us combating the fragility of aging and/or infirmity.

I carry a small plastic cylinder around my neck when paddling — the type sold to beach-goers for swimming with keys, valuables, etc. It costs under a dollar. Inside are an extra car key (used after shuttles), my clearance pass for paddling restricted local waters, a large-denomination bill for emergencies, three 325-mg aspirin, and a spray vial of nitroglycerin. A friend who had her first heart attack on our river paddle last summer thinks these last two may have saved her life. We also discovered that even though one of us usually carries a cell phone in a waterproof case, the hit-or-miss coverage often does not come through in bucolic floats.

I just purchased a new invention from Bending Branches called the Kayak Kickstand. It's a stabilizing device that clamps to the front of your cockpit something like a double C-clamp and locks your double-bladed paddle perpendicular to your boat. The extended, locked paddle then prevents accidental tip-overs when entering and exiting, and with the addition of one or two paddle-floats it becomes an outrigger pontoon that will prevent [maybe "delay " might be a better word here -Ed.] capsizing in deeper water. Unfortunately, the Trylon™ hull of my newest kayak is too brittle to utilize this device. I hope to try it soon on my LiquidLogic Stingray 14. I require large cockpits because following my heart attack my leg muscles do not function well enough to get in and out of the boats in the customary manner. I am forced to turn around in the cockpit, then rise up on my knees while using my arms to help push me up. Paddling with friends and clubs is an enormous boon to us codgers who refuse to succumb to the recliner and armchair paddling.

Yours in the autumnal sun.

Ritch Brinkley

And that wasn't the last we heard from Ritch. He wrote back later to say…

My stress test proved good news — my ejection fraction has doubled my heart's capacity. Now if only I can hog-tie the diabetes. I am spending the holidays in Raleigh, where I turned down an invitation to paddle the Cape Fear River on a day knocking the 30s. I'll return to Florida for our New Year's paddle. Our club, West Florida Canoe and Kayak, is sponsoring the 6th annual Florida Paddlers' Rendezvous next October, and we're expanding the invitations to Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. Looks to be a big event, and I am doing the publicity.

"When you're lucky enough to be on the water, you're lucky enough."

• • •

Tamia replies:

That's good news, indeed, Ritch — and your Rendezvous sounds like the event of the season for Southeast paddlers!


Water of Life

Dear Tamia,

Thank you for the article in Paddling Net. I didn't begin paddling until I was 52. In fact I always wanted my own canoe but had no one who would go with me. Then I learned about kayaks. I was working in a toxic environment, however, and I was suffering from a knee injury and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I was on a lot of prednisone, and my weight went up to about 300 pounds. I began swimming, something I always have enjoyed. Eventually I bought a Pungo Classic and got out in it a few times. In 2005 I joined the local outdoor club and had some very difficult, embarrassing moments with my asthma and lack of strength or skills. I find that "keeping up" often causes me stress, but when I am able to go out on my own at my own pace I am good for six to eight hours on the water.

This summer I've been paddling a Pungo 140 and using a lighter paddle. Still, it is hard to keep up with the 17-foot sleek kayaks, but when I am by myself on the water I feel free and capable. I've even pretty much learned how to get out of my kayak without soaking my whole body, and can load the boat back on my van single-handed. The body weight has not gone away, but my overall health and sense of well-being have much improved, thanks to my time either swimming or paddling. In fact, I no longer take blood pressure medication. Sometimes folks make fun of overweight women, especially those of us who try to squeeze into a kayak, but I get more of a backache from my Lay-Z-Boy® in two hours than I get in Pungo after a full seven-hour day of sitting in it.

We all have to start somewhere. Paddling.net is an excellent resource. I really appreciate it. Your article was very well worth reading by someone with my health history. Ten years ago I didn't think I'd live to be age 50, and if I did I saw an oxygen tank in my future. Now I dream of kayaking and someday getting a big gal's sea kayak. Thanks again.

Linda S. Keith

Tamia replies:

What can I say, Linda? I don't think I've ever come across a better example of grace under pressure. Thank you — and good luck!


Use It or Lose It!

Hi, Tamia!

I just read "One Foot in the Grave" with great interest. I can attest to the fact that one can continue doing fun things even if they are a bit strenuous. Since I grew up in Ohio and didn't move to New Hampshire until I was 40, the only thing I knew about snow was that it had to be shoveled off the walks. So it seems that some of the fun things came a little later in life for me than for most people. I learned to downhill ski at age 42. Racquetball was discovered at age 50. I did get into a canoe a couple of times around then, but kayaking had to wait till 74, when I was forced to give up racquetball because of a sciatica problem. Snowshoes came along a year later. As I said, I seem to be a late starter. Nonetheless, unless one uses the body, one is apt to lose it. Many years ago I promised myself that I was going to wear out, not rust out. So far, by the grace of God, I've been able to fulfill that promise. I do try to be prudent about cold-weather kayaking, but managed to extend last year's kayaking until November 30th. I too was told to keep the pulse rate at 120 or less, but the more fit you are, the easier it is to do that. So at 78, I go out to the barn and look fondly at my kayak, while I contemplate learning to cross-country ski.

Take care!

Nick Maselli

Tamia replies:

Thanks for writing, Nick. There's always something to look forward to when you're active, isn't there?


OK. That's a good note to end on. Whether you're a late developer or an early adopter, it's obvious that the march of time needn't dampened your ardor. Our readers' letters are evidence of that. And they're just a few voices among many. Messing about in boats is obviously good for both body and soul, whatever your age. In fact, it may just get better as the years add up. It's like Gus McCrae, the former Texas Ranger turned rancher in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, used to say: "The older the violin, the sweeter the music." And there aren't many things sweeter than gliding through the water with a paddle in your hands!

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to send us their comments and questions, hints and tips. Keep it up. After all, it's "Our Readers Write."

A little 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 put your e-mail address online 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 appropriate.

Copyright 2007 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.






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