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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

Stitched Up, Standing Tall, and Going It Alone Two Moons

May 29, 2012

When "Our Readers Write" last aired, there was fresh snow on the ground in our corner of Canoe Country. Now the trees have new leaves and the white‑throated sparrows are making the woods ring with their never‑ending tributes to Sam Peabody, while just a few miles further north their close kin are equally busy saluting Canada. The rivers are running free, too, even if the sparse Adirondack snowpack means an early end to the whitewater season.

Of course, the perennially cheerful sparrows aren't alone in welcoming the return of warmer and drier weather. In the Same Boat's readers have also been making plans for the summer season ahead. And we've been catching up on the backlog of correspondence in our virtual mailbag. This time around we figured we'd concentrate on fundamental matters: make‑and‑mend tools for peripatetic boaters, the tyranny of biology, and the pleasures (not to mention the pitfalls) of solo boating. But enough of these preliminaries. Our readers can speak for themselves, after all, and here's what they've had to say…

  —   Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat

Little things can mean a lot to paddlers. That's no surprise. Somewhere there's probably a canoeist who owes his life to a single match. For her part, Tamia has a special fondness for a most unlikely object: the little Chouinard Expedition Sewing Kit. She described it in a recent column, but her account ended on a rather melancholy note. The kit is no longer being sold.

And it turns out that Tamia's not the only paddler to mourn its passing. Her article elicited a number of letters from others who'd like to see it return, even if they have to make it themselves…

Whither the Expedition Sewing Kit?

Dear Tamia,

I am the proud owner of a Black Diamond Expedition Sewing Kit [Black Diamond acquired the assets of Chouinard Equipment in 1989 — Editor] . I know that they have stopped producing them, as has Exped, which made an almost exact copy of the kit. My climbing partner covets my kit, and I would like to put one together for him before he steals mine. The only challenging part of the kit is the collet chuck. Do you know a manufacturer/part number for the exact or similar collet chuck?

Thanks so much,
Brad Carson

Tamia replies:

I'm sorry to say I don't know of a suitable collect chuck, Brad. I'd also like to clone my kit, but I've had no luck locating a replacement for this critical component.

Chouinard Expedition Sewing Kit


For readers who've never seen one, it's labeled "3h" in the photo above, and it forms the backbone of the sewing awl:

Is That Awl?

Don't be deceived by its apparent fragility. The nearly weightless awl is sturdy enough to punch holes through canvas or leather, and without it the Expedition Sewing Kit would just be a collection of sewing sundries. So how about it, readers? Do you know of something similar? If you do, please give me a heads‑up. Brad and I would both be very grateful.

Gear is one thing. Basic biology, another. Whatever our differences — and these are many and interesting — men and women share a common bondage to bowels and bladder. Still, some of us operate at a disadvantage in the backcountry. When it comes time to pump ship, men can let fly more or less at will, but women are less fortunate. Happily, technology has now stepped in to provide what nature withheld, and Tamia explored the topic in a recent article, leading several readers to proffer their own answers to that perennial question, …

May Wee?

Dear Tamia,

Oh, I loved this article, and how you handled what can be an uncomfy thing with such good humor! I laughed my butt off, and still managed to learn a few things.

Being a city girl, it took me a little practice to get comfy with the squatting out‑of‑doors bit, but I have since overcome and learned the art, at least good enough to not get my shoes wet. Next to master the ELMER [Tamia's whimsical nickname for the FUD, or Female Urinary Device — Editor]. I have one, just haven't had an opportunity to use it yet.

Good job! My husband wanted to know what I was laughing so hard at. He sent me the link but didn't read it. Don't know if he'd quite get all the nuances, but he's had to put up with me evolving from the girl who didn't drink enough to where I am now, so maybe he would after all.

Susan Stone

Tamia replies:

Glad you enjoyed the article, Susan. And I'm delighted you're no longer holding your water. Like Jerome K. Jerome once said (in Three Men in a Boat), "Thirst is a dangerous thing." And as we've all discovered, whatever goes in has to come out, sooner rather than later.

A Fire‑and‑Forget FUD? Why Not!

Hi, Tamia!

I enjoyed your article. I had looked into the FUDs a while back and had forgotten about them. When I saw your article I was surprised you didn't include any of the ones that are disposable and/or biodegradable. I like the idea of the FUD but didn't like the idea of carrying one around in a baggie. I figure even if you rinse it out it's still going to smell sooner or later. Plus, if I carry a purse or pocketbook, it's not going to be a big one. The disposable ones take care of that. That first time I looked at them I had found one that was disposable. This time I found several of them, [including the P‑Mate, the Whizzy, and the Urinelle 7‑Pack Female Urination Cone].

Us women need to watch out for each other. I haven't tried any of the disposables yet, but plan on getting some to keep in the car. I liked the thought of the disposables, because I shoot a lot of pictures out in the country and go up the Blue Ridge Mountains a lot. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and there's not always a potty around. ...


Tamia replies:

Thanks for the tip, Kathy. To be honest, though, I'm not a great fan of disposable anythings. I see too many throw‑away items littering campsites as it is. And I've never had a problem keeping my ELMER clean and odor‑free. Healthy urine is sterile, at least until it hits the urethra, so a prompt rinse after each deployment — I use disinfected water for this — and an occasional thorough wash should do the trick. That said, there's no doubt that many women find the idea of a multi‑use ELMER somewhat off‑putting. Disposables certainly meet a need. They'd also be ideal for one‑time use on car trips, as you suggest.

Women aren't the only ones who are occasionally inconvenienced by nature's demands, of course. Men can find themselves hard pressed, too. Which is what led one male reader to seek out …

The Piddle Pack

Hi, Tamia!

How could you have overlooked the "piddle pack"? I was introduced to this device as a pilot. It is extremely useful in cramped quarters like an aircraft or kayak cockpit. … Every paddler/packer/pilot and anyone on a road trip should keep one or two of these handy. Men and women can use it quite discreetly, it packs at about the size and weight of an instant ice pack, is inexpensive and disposable. It traps liquids and odors and can be stowed for a day or two if packing or boating for several days and you need to pump ship.

These can be tough to track down as they are typically manufactured and sold directly to the Department of Defense, but there's a similar product called a Travel John, with a unisex collar design (i.e., you don't need an adapter). I get the Department of Defense version at a nearby Army surplus outlet, but others may not have that convenience.

Jeff LaBonte

Tamia replies:

Thanks for the straight poop on the piddle pack, Jeff. Subject to the usual caveats about disposables — neatly summarized by the familiar maxim, "If you can carry it in, you can carry it out" — this could be just what a lot of open‑water kayakers have been looking for. It might even help to stem the "nappy tides" that are fouling some beaches, too.

Notwithstanding what Milton's Adam and Cowper's Selkirk had to say on the subject, there are many pleasures to be had in solitude. Yet women who want to go into the backcountry alone often wonder if they'll be safe. It's easy to see why. Our fears grow fat on a constant diet of others' misfortunes. Still, things aren't as bleak as the sensational accounts in the news suggest. Can you solo in perfect safety, then? Sadly, no. Traveling alone in the backcountry always involves some risk, for men as well as women. But can you improve the odds that you'll have a trouble‑free trip? Certainly! Tamia touched on the subject in an article written especially for women, and it seemed to strike a chord with readers of both sexes who were thinking of …

Going It Alone

Dear Tamia,

Thanks for opening up this topic. I've wanted to solo paddle‑camp at a favorite lake for years. Last year I got there with some friends, but just felt like I wasn't ready to go it alone even though I have the skills, camping knowledge, and awareness. We have another paddle‑camping trip planned and I still don't know who else is going, but even if I was the only one, I think I could go solo with my daughter at a nearby base camp. Working up to it with short paddles on a nearby lake has helped my confidence. But for me, the first time "alone" is a little scary. All the reasons you listed, and mostly the "bad men" issue, just sit there on my lake of wanna‑do staring me down, even though I've never had a bad encounter.

I am a martial artist who trained six years and became a black belt in tae kwon do, in a school that was more for competition than lifestyle (warrior). However, as part of his curriculum the teacher also taught self‑defense, which goes beyond the traditional martial arts forms. The thing is that it's not a bad idea to seek out some kind of short‑term self‑defense lessons just to get it into your head. This not only increases your self‑confidence, but it also gives you a better understanding of HOW to look for and access more "tender spots" than just the obvious. It also works for defense against dogs. Once, when I first started training, and was out running, a medium‑sized dog came running at me to try and take a bite. I neatly scooped him up with my foot and tossed him back several feet giving him pause and confusion until the owners came running out to get him.

I haven't practiced tae kwon do for several years now, but every now and then when I think about the idea of getting trapped, I go through what I could do, and I practice it in my head. One thing to keep in mind about weapons — whether they are guns, knives, pepper spray, or sticks — is that they can be taken away and used against you. Another reason to put the weapon in your head with self‑defense thinking, and automatic responses born of clear thinking. Or, as Mr. Miyagi responds in the first Karate Kid when asked what the best self‑defense is: "Not be there!" So situational awareness remains first on the list, for sure!


Tamia replies:

I'm glad you've found my article useful, Becky. Your gradual approach to soloing is a good one. And your insights concerning the value of martial arts training in instilling self‑confidence are thought‑provoking.

• • •

Becky wrote a second note later…

After writing to you, two of my friends and I went paddle‑camping for a weekend on the wilderness side of the lake. We talked a bit about how we felt about running into other people "out there" and one friend's take was that people are of the same mind as we are out doing the same as we are — enjoying the outdoors and the experience of hiking, camping, and paddling a kayak (or canoe, or bicycling). There were lots of people to justify her view, and the revelers were on the far side of the lake enjoying the fur‑trappers convention! (We could hear them across the water, once or twice.) Live for the best, don't ignore the chance of the worst. It's a fine balance not to give in to worry, but to be aware — and savvy!

Safer in the Woods Than in Town?

Hi, Tamia!

I liked your "Going It Alone" article — some very good points for someone thinking about getting out there. I wish more women would. I have some paddling women friends, and they refuse to go on a day trip alone. I tell them if it wasn't for going it alone I would have missed out on 80 percent of my paddling.

I'm a guy. Been canoeing and camping for over 40 years. I agree, [ill‑disciplined] dogs are a big question mark. I don't get it. … Over the years I've never had a problem with bears. Raccoons and skunks have been a big pain. Humans, I try to camp where they are not. Sometimes that's not possible. Overall, I think you're safer in the woods than in town.


Tamia replies:

That's always been my view, too, Ralph. Of course, soloing isn't for novices. It shouldn't be undertaken by anyone who doesn't acknowledge (and understand) the risks. And I think it's best not to push a hesitant friend too hard. Setting an example is often the most persuasive form of encouragement. Over time, it usually yields results. After all, as you rightly suggest in your note, the choice for many paddlers often boils down to going alone or staying at home.

The View Ahead


And I don't think there are many stay‑at‑homes reading In the Same Boat, do you? Which is why it's time to wrap this up. The late‑spring sun is warming the water, and the woods are green again. There's no better time to be out and about in a boat. But we'll be back in July. Till then, keep letting us know what's on your mind. After all, it's "Our Readers Write."



Referenced Articles From In the Same Boat

And from my own website…


A little fine print: Although we often ask, just to be sure, we 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. That's all it takes.) We will never put your e‑mail address online unless you specifically ask us to, however. We also edit letters occasionally for length or clarity, and we add links to articles or other resources wherever and whenever appropriate.

Copyright © 2012 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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