Putting the "Old Woman" to Work
Hi, Tamia —
I never miss your column! Keep up the good work. Have you ever done one about constructing a sailing rig — mast, boom, leeboard, etcetera — for a canoe? I have an aluminum canoe which has the mast step already in place, and I would love to make a sail kit. If you haven't done a column can you point me in the right direction?
David W. Palmer
I'm glad to hear that you like what we write, David, though in this instance I'm afraid we don't have what you're looking for. While I've dabbled with a variety of ad hoc sail rigs on long trips, Farwell's your man for sailing. He's done a fair bit of messing about in dinghies and sailing canoes, and he began a series of articles on that very subject for Paddling.net awhile back. You'll find them in the Archives under the subhead "Putting the 'Old Woman' to Work." But that series is a work in progress, and Farwell doesn't plan to complete it till sometime next year.
In the meantime, I'd suggest you check out "Canoe Sailing Resources." There's a wealth of material there, and you'll find the article "Sticks and Strings" of particular interest.
You might also want to keep a lookout for the 1954 edition of Canoeing by the American National Red Cross. It has detailed discussions of rigging canoes for sail, along with a lot of other interesting things, like sequence photos showing how to roll a wood‑canvas canoe. A good library can probably turn up a copy, or you can find one through a used‑book seller.
When Push Comes to Shove
An article that Tamia wrote way back in 2002, "When It's Time to Punt," recently caught the eye of one reader, and she dropped Tamia a line to suggest a timely update. Read on…
You may want to update this article. I found that in America, punting poles are called "push poles," and they are generally sold to duck hunters [and fishermen, too –Editor]. They're telescoping aluminum poles ranging from 5'6" to 11‑ or 12‑footers. Once I knew this, searching for them online was easy. I can't wait to get one.
Methuen Rail Trail Alliance
Great idea, Joyce. Thanks for the tip. A word of warning, though: Many "push poles" are intended solely for use in still, sheltered waters. They're often a bit wobbly for tackling rapids — even easy rapids. That said, if you find one that's up to the job, there's no better tool for two‑way travel on moving water.
… But then Joyce had an even better idea:
I ended up making [my own] push pole. My materials and instructions are described in "How to make a Push Pole for Punting" at Instructables.com.
The upshot? If you're a paddler who sometimes likes to go against the flow, and if you're not happy with the readymade poles you've seen for sale, check out Joyce's DIY guide. Remember to get the feel for your new pole in protected waters first, though! Things happen fast on a river.
A Reader's Tale of Two Tails
Tamia's article on IDing beavers and muskrats, "A Tale of Two Tails," has attracted a steady stream of letters in the weeks since it was published, back in June. Here are two…
Hi, Tamia —
I just had to write you and thank you for the "Is It a Beaver or a Muskrat?" article. I had my first taste of kayaking about a year and a half ago, and finally last month I went out and bought my own, a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 sit‑on‑top. I live just north of Atlanta, where I have good access to Lake Lanier on the weekends and the Chattahoochee River during the week. Usually during the week I'll get home from work, quickly load the boat, and get on the river in about 15 minutes. I head upstream for an hour and then turn around for a more leisurely drift back to the ramp.
OK. Enough of the background and back to the article. Even though I've lived in the area for 20 or more years, I never knew that the Chattahoochee had so much wildlife. I have seen blue herons, dozens of ducks, turtles, and then just last week I saw a couple of little heads swimming through the water about 50 or 60 feet away. This was on my upstream leg of the trip, so I couldn't take a break from paddling against the current. Later in the same trip I saw another "something" scurrying around on the shoreline, but still too far away to see details. Then I read your article and watched the video. I still wasn't sure what I saw, but I knew what to look for now.
Today I got home from work, loaded the kayak, hit the river about 4:30, and an hour later turned around to head back. As I was gently paddling I saw something moving across the river about 75 feet ahead. I stopped paddling and drifted. He ducked underwater and I thought he was gone. But then he popped up no more than eight feet away, right next to me! There's the head, body and long skinny tail. MUSKRAT! You have no idea how excited I was to see him (her?) and be able to identify it correctly.
Thanks again and keep those wonderful articles coming.
Will do, Brad. I'm delighted that "Tale of Two Tails" has helped you get to know your wild neighbors better. By the way, if you missed the June edition of "Our Readers Write," you might want to check it out now, because it includes a link to Worth a Dam's short YouTube video showing a yearling beaver and a muskrat head‑to‑head. You won't find a better illustration of the size difference.
… Later, Brad wrote back:
As an addendum I'd like to add that just this past week I saw a colony of four or five beavers in and out of the water. It was approaching dusk, and I was closing in on my take‑out point, [when] I heard a huge splash off to the side of the river. I looked over to see two beavers on a downed tree and two or three others swimming around them. I was headed downstream so I was able to quietly drift by without disturbing them. What a thrill! Now I've seen both beavers AND muskrats up close.
Sounds like you caught a glimpse of a family outing, Brad. A happy discovery, indeed!
Hi, Tamia —
I love your article on the differences between beavers and muskrats. People do mix them up, especially in their enthusiasm to see beavers. I have a question about the first picture in your article, though. In it you describe a beaver dam in the foreground and a beaver lodge in the background. To my eye the construction in the foreground is a lodge, and the one in the pond is an old lodge. I have never seen a dam that did not span a waterway. Perhaps there are details not seen in that view. I know you know your stuff, but perhaps you clicked on the wrong picture for the article? I don't want to complain, your articles are the best on this site.
Rob Roe, Curator
Woodside National Historic Site of Canada
Thanks for the props, Rob — and thanks, too, for pointing out that the photo I used to illustrate my article was less than crystal clear. Not all pictures are worth a thousand words, and in my wish to show as much of the scene as possible I ended up giving short shrift to the outlet stream.
In any case, that is a dam in the foreground. The outlet was little more than a trickle when I took the shot in early April, though the stream is spanned by a plank footbridge. (You can just glimpse the bridge in the pool of shadow in the lower right corner.) I've been coming to the site for some 20 years now, and the lodge you can see in the picture was already there on my first visit. There are newer lodges elsewhere on the pond, as well as a satellite lodge on a second pond formed by damming the outlet. An esker divides the two ponds, and from its summit you can see several underwater food caches. Some of the cached limbs are freshly peeled, so it's a pretty good bet that the beavers haven't upped sticks and moved away. (Trapping isn't permitted.)
Now let's see if I can do a better job of evoking the scene. Here's my original photo: