Thursday, August 30, 2007

Keewenaw bound

Tommorow the VOR and I head for the annual fall kayak trip with the Madison/Washburn crew. In the past we've done Isle Royale, a couple Apostle Islands trips, Voyageurs National Park on the Canadian border, and this year its Copper Harbor and the Keewenaw Peninsula. Nothing too much is planned just some paddling, fishing, and R&R. We hope to hit Manitou Island at the very tip of the Keewenaw as well as the Gull Rock Light. It should be a pretty low key week and the goal is to listen to the weather report and take what Lake Superior is prepared to give us. After all, as we all know.... the lake is the boss.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Watercraft Smorgasbord

In addition to the intense competition and healthful post race activities, the Island Lake Triathalon also features a number of interesting watercraft. There is no shortage of water toys on the lake and most of them are fun to play with. Think of that word, 'most', when we get to the air chair.

First up on the list is the ever popular Hobie Cat catamaran. The wind was really nice and those things can really move, even when hauling UncleRick, NieceLaura, and the Voice of Reason. It was so much fun that I was late for the crucial Fantasy Football draft. Fortunately my buddies had my back and drafted Michael Vick for me in the first round. Thanks guys!

More sedate than the Hobie is the venerable paddle boat. A few years back on this very paddle boat Uncle Rick and I were sitting just off the beach, enjoying a beer and watching the Hingemaster attempt to perfect his screw roll. SisterDeb, known from hereafter as MrsClean, could not see her beloved son the Hingemaster catching a breath everytime he missed a roll. All she saw was the bottom of a kayak lurching around, her son trapped by the spray skirt, and two grown men close by on the paddle boat laughing, oblivious, and swilling beer. The next thing we knew she was running toward the lake ordering UncleRick and I to, "Help him you assholes!". The beauty of the situation was that it was all caught on tape by a neighbor.

Next up on the list is the unique and almost undescribable homemade pontoon/houseboat known as the Windsor Castle, named for the beverage that is consumed in substantial quantity on its voyages. This boat has been on Island Lake since the early sixties when PeteS built it from scratch. It has a galley, sleeping quarters, fore and aft decks, and you can even picnic on the roof or jump off it into the lake. It is a pain in the rear end to get in and out of the water (it weighs about 5 tons) but everyone loves it.

And now for the infamous air chair. This is a piece of gear that is towed behind a boat like a water ski or wake board. You sit on it....actually you're lashed to the thing so the large steel fin doesn't split your skull if you and the device become separated in the inevitable crash. I tried to encourage novices to give it a try so I could get some good crash shots. It was not really necessary. Even the expert riders can bite the water in a spectacular fashion.

Since this is primarily a kayak blog I guess we have to have a kayak. This gem is a complete mystery. It was purchased sometime in the late '60s and is a fiberglass boat. It has no decals or any sort of identification. Its fairly light, has a small keel which makes it track decently, and is in great shape for being 40 years old. The cockpit coaming is roughly the size of an ocean cockpit and is screwed on to the deck. Any feedback from anyone as to who made this thing or where it might have came from would be appreciated. I need to solve the mystery.

And finally, heres that air chair crash I promised you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Island Lake Triathalon

The Third Annual Island Lake Triathalon was another rousing success. For the third year in a row the race and the prestigious Windsor Cup was won by nephew Scott, the Hingemaster. A mile swim, 26 mile bike, and 5 mile run is the 'official' course. But several variations are available such as the kayak/bike/no run, the sleep in/bake cake/drink coffee, and the popular rescue boat for swimmers/bike to Backwoods Tavern/enjoy Bloody Mary breakfast. Everyone got some exercise and the post event awards ceremony and banquet went on until the wee hours. It was a perfect weekend weatherwise and the festivities on the Windsor Castle, a homemade early sixties vintage houseboat, were a highlight of the weekend.

Bikes ready for the ride across the lake.

Swimmers on their marks.

Water break along the bike route.

Too much fun on the Windsor Castle.

Some kayaks even wound up inverted a few times along the way.......

Friday, August 24, 2007

Two victories!

Two stories in the paper today give even a cynical, often sarcastic political observer like me hope. In the first one, the Coast Guard has agreed not to use live rounds for live fire exercises on the Great Lakes. Instead it will be a kind of laser tag for ships. While I would agree 100% that sailors need to fire their weapons in order to become proficient with them, throwing several tons of lead into freshwater lakes is just not a good idea. The DNR is encouraging and coming up with incentives for us to get rid of our lead sinkers. I would guess that one hour of practice with the deck mounted machine guns that the Coasties use would throw more lead into the lake than all us fisherman could produce in a couple of years. The SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) that No2 son is manning in the photo has a rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute. That would be the equivalent of one hell of a pile of fishing sinkers. Hats off to the Coasties for opting for the common sense approach.

The other story is even more significant. BP (British Petroleum) has backed off on their permit to increase the tonnage of crap that they dump into Lake Michigan. I had ranted about this in a previous post and had almost zero hope that this calamity would be avoided. I was 99% certain that the government wouldn't do anything but study the issue and point fingers. Then, out of the blue BP itself comes through with a voluntary pledge to meet its pollution limits once it completes its expansion. Apparently, after aggressively promoting themselves as an environmentally friendly company, they decided to actually walk the walk. 100,000 signatures on petitions didn't hurt either. In both cases, public opinion helped sway the powers that be in both the Coast Guard and British Petroleum to make the correct decision in regard to keeping the Great Lakes clean. We need to applaud them both as well as keep up the pressure and vigilance when government and industry try to slide this sort of thing through the system.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kayak Games

A hardy SKOAC crew headed for Bush Lake under threatening skies last night for some kayak games. Cowboy reentries, hackey sack/laCrosse (no stripper accusations or prosecutors run amok at this event), hand paddling, synchronized rolling, most rolls in 30 seconds, and other fun stuff was on the evenings menu. In addition, the crack Summit beer video/interview crew were there to film for a new website that they will be launching called the Social Element. Take a peek, pretty cool stuff.

The key element to the Social Element interview process was of course the free beer at the end. I've been enjoying Summit Extra Pale ale since day one in 1986 and even served as an unofficial brewery representative when I hauled a half barrel of Great Northern Porter down to Madison for the precursor of the current Great Taste of the Midwest Beer Festival. Good folks and even better beer! The turnout was fairly light, especially given the gratis beer situation, but at least a dozen of the crew are headed for Oak Island this weekend and the weather did look a bit threatening. In the end what this meant, of course..........more beer for we hardy souls that made it!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BWCAW Redneck followup

Here is more info on the Basswood Lake redneck harassment. Apparently it was a bit more serious than the article in the Mpls Strib indicated. It was actually 2 boatloads of rednecks shooting firearms in the vicinity of campers. I was unable to click on the link for the Duluth Tribune so I called and they were kind enough to email me the article. The most succinct quote describing the situation was a "mix of alcohol and stupidity". No kidding. Even though the Feds put them in the same Bureau (of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), drinking and shooting really, really don't mix. One of my good friends got a moose permit in the BWCAW a few years back. It was a classic wilderness hunt with canoe access, camping, field dressing and quartering the moose, etc. What these knuckleheads don't realize is that this kind of behavior will get outboard motors AND firearms banned from the entire area. Which, I am sure, is the abosolute last thing these bubba's want to happen. Anyway, here is the story in its entirety:

No charges yet for six who 'terrorized' BWCAW campers
Duluth News Tribune - 08/21/2007

Campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness used cell phones to call authorities on the night of Aug. 7, saying they were terrorized by men firing shots from motorboats. Some told officers they feared for their lives and hid in the woods.

Six suspects in two boats apparently were involved in the incident.

Lake County Sheriff’s deputies responded with law enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service and Ely Police Department. Two men were arrested and taken into custody at the Fall Lake boat landing north of Ely as officers waited in the dark for the suspects to leave the wilderness. They were released within 36 hours.

Two firearms were taken as evidence.

No formal charges have been filed against any of the suspects in the incident on Basswood Lake, the Lake County attorney’s office said Monday.

The case is under review by County Attorney Russ Conrow and charges could be leveled later this week, the office said.

Four other people, including a juvenile, also are expected to be charged. All were Ely-area residents. The investigation and prosecution are being handled by Lake County.

One of the suspects arrested told the News Tribune on Monday that his attorney advised him not to comment on the case. The News Tribune generally doesn’t name suspects until they have been formally charged.

Officers returned to the scene the next morning to gather testimony and evidence, and several other groups of campers reported being threatened by the armed suspects.

There’s evidence the men may have crossed illegally onto the Canadian side of Basswood Lake with a handgun, which is a violation of Canadian federal law whether the guns were fired or not.

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said the suspects appeared under the influence of alcohol at the time. He said the threats appeared random and that there’s no reason to suspect any more harassment of BWCAW campers.

“It was a mixture of alcohol and stupidity,’’ Johnson said. “This wasn’t a case were they went up there targeting anyone or planning to do something to someone. But when circumstances presented, they acted in the wrong way.’’

Guns are allowed in the federally managed Superior National Forest and in the BWCAW, and hunters each fall pursue grouse, moose and deer in the wilderness. But state laws on hunting and firearms discharge apply.

“You can’t endanger people; you can’t be reckless. You have to follow laws as far as how you use the firearm,’’ said Kris Reichenbach, spokeswoman for the Superior National Forest. “But this went way beyond being reckless or being a nuisance. This got to the point of a safety issue where people were threatened.’’

Johnson said lucky cell-phone coverage at Basswood Lake enabled officers to guess where the suspects would leave the BWCAW.

“If we hadn’t received those calls, we probably wouldn’t have been able to put this together as well. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to apprehend them so quickly,’’ Johnson said.

Reichenbach said the Forest Service warns people not to depend on cell phones to bail them out of trouble in the BWCAW. Campers should be prepared to handle medical and other emergencies on their own — that’s part of the wilderness tradition. Moreover, cell phone coverage is spotty to nonexistent in some areas.

“That’s still what we tell people, not to depend on them to get you out of a situation. But in this case it appears they may have helped speed up the response,’’ Reichenbach said.

Gunplay is not a common problem in the 1.1 million-acre BWCAW. There was a smaller incident of gunfire during which people felt threatened a couple of years ago, Reichenbach said.

Photo: Unarmed yet likely intoxicated (and maybe stupid) potential camper harassers head for their trusty pontoon (not really...although some camper harassment has taken place from this very pontoon!).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Life rings and rednecks

Two articles in the local bird cage liner caught my attention this morning. The first was a followup on the Edmund Fitzgerald life ring story. Apparently the ring was a cabin decoration that had been made to commemorate the sinking of the Fitz and not an attempt to deceive anyone. Seemed very odd that no one would have found this thing for 32 years and then all of a sudden it turns up on the Keewenaw.

The second story is a disturbing one about two boat loads of rednecks harassing canoe campers on Basswood Lake in the BWCA wildereness. One of the big debates when the Boundary Waters Canoe Area was formed was which lakes could still have motors and how large those motors could be. I've said before that the only people who readily embrace change are babies with full diapers. Most Ely and area residents hated the idea that they could no longer use outboards on the lakes that they and their parents and grandparents had been using for years. In an earlier post I advocated dialogue and a 'why can't we just get along?' attitude between we kayakers and canoeists and the sailors and power boaters that we share the water with. I still strongly believe that but something tells me that these Neanderthals, who are a few decades behind the times in the BWCA debate, just wouldn't respond to that sort of reasoning. It will be very interesting to see how the local courts treat these knuckleheads. In the meantime, keep up the dialogue with our fellow water aficionados and spend a few bucks in these areas that we love to paddle in.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Transition season

We had our first little touch of fall this weekend. Cool weather, rain, and the temp in Grand Marais, MN hit 32F last night. My own personal touch of fall was a trip to Bwana Archery to check out a new hunting bow. Bow deer season in Wisconsin begins on Saturday, September 15th this year. The freezer is almost bare with a disturbing lack of venison sausage, bologna, breakfast links, steaks, chops, and roasts. Don't worry fellow paddlers, there is likely enough left for a couple more kayak trips so we should be good. When properly cared for, there is no meat more tasty or healthy than venison. No growth hormones, antibiotics, very low fat, and an excellent flavor make it a carnivores dream. And believe me, in Wisconsin we need to cull a few thousand; the overpopulation problem is severe. The CWD outbreak in the south of the state a few years back, thousands of car-deer collisions, plant species being eradicated, and the crowding out of other species make deer hunting almost your civic duty. I reported a moose sighting near our camp to the local DNR wildlife biologist. He said he had sporadic sightings but in order for moose to thrive in the area the deer population needed to be 1-2 per square mile. Right now they are at 6-10 per square mile. Another friend who is a biology professor at Northland College in Ashland, WI said that Canadian Yew and even cedar are becoming rare because the deer eat the young trees like candy.

Our deer camp is two miles from the south shore of Lake Superior as the crow flies. This enables me to multi task in the fall. I spend a couple hours in the bow stand at dawn and dusk and the middle of the day is spent somewhere between the Brule River and the Meyers Beach sea caves in my boat. On a memorable bow deer opener 4 years ago, I sat in my stand in the morning and saw 8 deer, flushed 5 grouse (never even got a shot off) and then headed for the Brule to troll in the kayak. In about 3 hours I caught walleye, a couple coho, and a nice Lake Trout. It doesn't get much better than that in the fall northwoods.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Justice prevails!

Boy, that was quick! I just received the following email from Living Adventures:

Thanks for your help Dave! We have recovered the kayaks and appreciate all of the support from the community.
Take care,

Reservations @ Living Adventure Inc.

Stinkin' kayak theivery

I received the following email from one of the board members of our SKOAC group.

I was just informed about a couple of stolen boats and gear and wanted to alert you about this matter.
2 Boats and gear were stolen off the dock at Living Adventure in Bayfield - they are:
-NDK Explorer LV - Red deck over Black hull
-Northwest Kayaks - tandem red deck over white hull
-Lendal Crankshaft paddle
Please be on the lookout for such boats and gear as the thieves may very well try to sell the them. If you learn anything of these items you should contact Living Adventure at 715-779-9503.
Also, please spread the word among your other paddling friends and let's see if we can catch the perpetrators and earn them their just punishment.

I despise thieves. Whether it be kayaks, hackers attempting to steal your personal info, or anything else, I hate em'. When I was a youth our camp in northern Wisconsin used to get broken into and ransacked every winter. One year I decided there should be some repercussions for these jerks and put about a quarter of a bottle of syrup of ipecac in a half empty bottle of blackberry brandy. Much to my satisfaction (and my old mans horror when he found out) when we came up the next spring, the bottle had been stolen. And hopefully consumed, ideally by being passed around between the theives. Had that been the case, the old expression, "Boy, he sure hung on a puker last night" would be much more than appropos. Both sons inherited my aversion to theives also. No1 son tracked down, confronted, and 'chastised' the guy that stole his and his cousins bikes while they were dining at a McDonalds. No2 son, even before he became a MP, did undercover security at the Baby Gap in downtown Minneapolis. His adversion to thievery led him to chase down a shoplifter and tackle him in front of the Crystal Court on Nicolet Mall.

These appear to be a couple of distinctive boats. If anyone gets wind of these boats, get in touch with the appropriate authorities or, and you have my blessing, deal with it on a more personal basis and get the boats back. Bastards like this need more than a $384 fine and 6 months probation. Good luck to Grant and Gail and with any luck, we'll solve this 'case'.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Did we pull the plug !!??

The headline in this mornings St Paul paper reads, "Dredging causes huge Great Lakes water loss, report says". Boy, I don't know....seems to make a lot of common sense to me. I know the knee jerk reaction is supposed to be that we blame global warming. The problem is that even Al Gore himself couldn't explain such a rapid decrease in the water levels. Could it be as simple a principle as the way the drain in your bathtub operates, when you open it up the water rushes out more quickly? The Canadian study recommended a fairly simple fix, covering the eroding areas with rock and installing a few gates to control flow. Of course our quick to react US officials, the same crew that was Johnny-on-the spot after Katrina, have decided that we would be "conducting a five-year study that would recommend what to do". The Canadian group and environmentalists in both nations said waiting that long would severely damage wetlands, fish habitat, water quality and Great Lakes cargo shipping. That would give Washington the rare opportunity to piss off fishermen, kayakers, boaters, environmentalist, and the business community all at the same time. This would appear to be something that we actually could deal with in a timely fashion. So what's there to study or drag feet on? The other telling line was, "findings since then show the volume being lost is three times as much—even topping the 2.1 billion gallons pulled from Lake Michigan each day to supply Chicago's municipal system". Lets see.....Chicago is pulling out 2 billion gallons a day, at least that much is flowing 'down the drain' into the Atlantic, and we need a 5 year study to figure out where the hell the water is going? I wonder what type of 9/11 or bridge collapse catastrophe it will take for the government policy setters to get their thumbs out of their posteriors?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Weekend Followup

Both the Great Taste of the Midwest beerfest and the Womyn's Paddle Extravaganza came off without a hitch. In Madison, beer was consumed, rolls were practiced, fine food was consumed, and trip plans were laid for a Keewenaw paddle the week after Labor Day. I'm always struck by the number of non chain dining establishments and non sports bars drinking establishments in the Capitol Square and Willy St area of Madison's east side. People support them and most do a very nice job. The Comeback Inn however, is off the list for next years pre beerfest base preparation. For the second year in a row they seemed unable to produce a standard breakfast in less than an hour. Last year we got our breakfast free and this year a round of drinks but come on! Its breakfast; it just ain't that tough! We will continue to enjoy their extensive tap selection and just play to their strength; pouring beers. No more breakfast attempts however. Jamerica restaurant on the other hand was superb once again. A small storefront located a short half block from beerfest base camp and classic neighborhood hangout the Crystal Corner, the Caribbean food there is simply wonderful. The jerked chicken and pork are out of this world. Even a veteran chef/food critic like the Bessemer Convivialist raved about the chow there.

Speaking of the BC, all went well on Oak Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore for what is now the first annual Womyn's Paddle Extravaganza. It was quickly pointed out to me by the VOR that the menu was completely different than when we menly men are along. Vegetable Thai curry, cucumbers with hummus, and cherry tomatoes have replaced venison stew, beer sticks, and a large block of cheese. I'm not sure how a person can paddle on unsubstantial fare such as that but they managed to hit Oak, Raspberry, Hermit, and Basswood islands without weakening. They also rendezvoused with the Mayor without incident, although she had been prepared to paddle off toward Hermit Island after misidentifying it as Oak. Being a woman who knows everyone, she immediately ran into one of her 'constituents' on Oak Island....amazing! The other 3 members of the expedition were the IrishPirate, lady friend of the Bjorn Dahlie of Mathtomedi, the SuperiorHikeTrailDiva from Como Park, and the GlobalPaddler, a woman who's thrown the boat in the water around the globe. Given that this was an intro paddle for a couple of relative newcomers (first Lake Superior crossings in a couple cases) , they covered some serious water and did very well. The only one who screwed up was the BC who, upon stopping for lunch, discovered that she was the only one with no beer! This could ruin her reputation as a convivialist but Im sure there will be plenty of opportunity for redemption. I was also proud of the way they maximized their Sunday time on the water. A 6pm Sunday call to my cell phone from Morty's Pub in Bayfield,WI confirmed that the ladies knew how to properly debrief after a long weekend of paddling. I received the call as I was clearing the brain with a rolling session on Snail Lake, accompanied by GalwayGuy. He and I wound up in Mahtomedi at the B.Dahlie residence where we dined on fine cuisine and debated the merits of Bombay vs Tanqueray in our favorite quenching summer beverage. The VOR and Mayor stayed in Herbster at the town campground for another night and did a sisterly Meyers Beach sea caves day trip. Two very different weekend but both rewarding in their own very different way.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wing on Wing

Last night the Voice of Reason and I went out on my friend Charlie's (this guy is deserving of an excellent moniker.....don't worry, I'll come up with one!) 24' Hunter sailboat. We sailed on Lake Minnetonka, a lake known for wealthy old money, founders of companies like Pillsbury, General Mills, Cargill, etc. Big boats, big estates, and Viking love boat scandals make this quite the interesting body of water. There is a dockside bar called Lord Fletchers where one can see some of the finest examples of the plastic surgeons art available anywhere in the state. We however, just were out for a lesiurely sail on a beautiful summer evening. The VOR, with support from the Bessemer Convivialist, is leading a womans expedition to Oak Island in the Apostles. They will be joined at some point Saturday by the Mayor, who will meet them at the Red Cliff Point nun buoy.....hopefully. VOR is shown in the photo unabashedly stealing the photographers wine, with the wing on wing sail rig in the background. I will be heading to Madison, WI for a solid 5 hours of beer sampling at the Great Taste of the Midwest beer fest in Olin Turville park. 125 breweries with 3-4 beers each. Its just plain wonderful. In case you were wondering, the photo below was not taken at the beginning of the event.
Nor have I joined the Taliban. The headgear was sent by then SSgt No2 Son, at the time serving in Iraq as a Humvee gunner. I will help a buddy with his roll on Saturday morning in pea green Lake Mendota but not much paddling for me. Good luck to the VOR, BC, Mayor, and the other women heading out this afternoon.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kayaker near bridge collapse

Just a quick note to the local (Minneapolis/St Paul) readers of this blog. The StarTribune just reported that the NTSB is looking for a kayaker that was spotted in the water at the time the bridge went down. The paddle community is fairly small so if you know of anyone that was in the St Anthony Falls area of the river at that time please forward this info. Here is the pertinent paragraph from the article:

"Martin said it’s important that anyone who was on the bridge at the time of the collapse and who has not been formally interviewed to contact the National Transportation Safety Board hotline. Authorities have also been told that there was a kayaker near the bridge at the time of the collapse, and they would like to talk to that person. The NTSB hotline number is 1-866-328-6347".

Here is the link to the entire article from the paper.

November Blizzards

In my last post I mentioned that the only day of the year that the Split Rock light is lit is on November 10 to commemorate the sinking in 1975 of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Kiwibird posted a comment on the song and this morning the following article appeared in the St Paul paper about a life ring some folks found that was thought to be from the Fitz. I figured the stars coming together like that meant I needed to do a Fitz post.

For we Great Lakes folks the sinking and the storm itself are legendary. Up until this storm the famous Armistice Day blizzard was the standard by which we measured November storms. My father, who was in high school at the time (1940), pissed off my Uncle Chuck by refusing to go duck hunting because of "some high school thing that I don't even remember now". As a result, no one went and it likely saved their lives. Dozens of duck hunters were not so lucky.

I was in college at the time of the Fitz sinking and remember walking across the footbridge that spanned the Chippewa River and thinking about holding on to keep from getting blown off. News of the sinking really struck us since several of my buddies were from Ashland, WI, home of several of the crewmen that were lost. There were many stories about the storm but one that really hit home and illustrated the force involved was the one that we were told by the caretaker of the Battle Island light, off Rossport, ONT. The photo below is of the lighthouse. We had paddled out during our annual fall kayak trip. We were told that during the storm in 1975 waves threw up pieces of ice high enough that they broke the windows......of the light beacon itself! Much more good info can be found at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point which is where I took the shots of the ships bell and plaque. "The searchers all say she'd of made Whitefish Bay if she'd put 15 more miles behind her". The museum is not anywhere near the beaten path but well worth the trip. Its hard to think about blizzards on a 90F day in August but, as the sumac leaves begin to turn red, we Lake Superior junkies all know that they are right around the corner.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Split Rock Lighthouse

The Madeira was in ballast and under tow of the steamer William Edenborn on November 28, 1905 in the midst of what many consider to be the worst storm in the history of the Great Lakes. In the Mataafa storm, 20 vessels were wrecked or damaged with great loss of life and property. The iron and steel industry was going full bore at the beginning of the 20th century and ship traffic between the Mesabi, Cayuna, Gogebic, and Penokee iron ranges and the mills in Cleveland and Pittsburgh was heavy. At 3:30am, the height of the storm, the captain of the Edenborn cut the Madeira's towline, thinking the ship stood a better chance of surviving if it cast anchor and tried to ride out the storm. The Madeira struck Gold Rock at about 5:30am, just north of the present location of the Split Rock Lighthouse. About the same time the Edenborn grounded and broke in two about four miles away. The first mate on the Madeira went down with the ship but the other nine crew members were rescued when Fred Benson, a Norwegian crewman, grabbed a line and jumped from the ship to a rock, climbed the 60' cliff, and dropped the line to the deck so his shipmates could climb up.

After this monumental storm with its accompanying loss of life and property, much finger pointing ensued. Kind of like when a bridge collapses. Politicians, inspectors, engineers, and others all blamed one another but rather than getting at the root cause of the problem, "economically"constructed and overloaded ships, the shipping companies launched a campaign for the cheapest available protection, a government financed light station. And that (after heavy lobbying by shipping and steel industries) is how the Split Rock Lighthouse came about. The station was closed in 1969 when modern navigational methods made it obsolete but every year on November 10th the navigational beacon is lit to honor the 29 men lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald and all the other vessels lost on the Great Lakes. Its a wonderful place to tour and an even better place to paddle around in a kayak.

(factual info in the above post courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Racin' fools at Two Harbors kayak fest

A select splinter group, the SKOAC Renegades, headed to Two Harbors for the 10th Annual Kayak Festival and the Betty's Pies Five (and a half) mile race. I am happy to report 3 firsts, a fifth and a sixth place in our respective classes. The Bessemer Convivialist finished first amongst the Renegades, trouncing the boys soundly. The victory was tainted however, when she admitted to steroid usage while lounging around the campfire that evening ("You wouldn't believe it, NOTHING hurts and you get this feeling of euphoria!"). We weak willed males also suspect that she plied us with tasty adult beverages at the Friday night fire to slow us down a bit more on Saturday morning. The crafty BC did paddle a steady race however and I don't believe she was passed once she rounded the Stewart River buoy at the halfway point. I had the back of her head in sight the entire way, waiting for my finishing sprint that never came. My plan to surf to the lead on a nice following sea was apparently everyone elses plan too. GalwayGuy was shadowing me, hoping to blow by me in the stretch run, but had the treacherous Irish Greenland stick break again. It has officially been retired to the wall.

RonO was slightly behind GG and I was 30 seconds behind the Aussie member of our contingent, henceforth known as the Man From Snowy Legs. If 'farmer tanning' (face, neck, hands tan with the rest of your carcass a pasty white) were an Olympic event, MFSL would be joining me on the medal platform. In the Greenland stick/Valley boat division myself, GG, and RonO finished 1-2-3. Our staff photographers, BjornDahlieOfMahtomedi and MFSL's lady friend, The BemidjiIntelOfficer, joined us for pie at Betty's. We immediately headed there post race to redeem our free slice of pie, a part of the race tradition.
The 18 mile marathon event was won with a time of around 2.5 hours, pretty impressive considering the 4' seas they encountered while rounding Encampment Island. This is a well run, fun, and nicely low key event. For the entry fee of $40 we received nice ceramic finishers medals, T-shirts, the free slice of pie (of course!), two very nice meals, and access to the expo, not to mention the fine cameraderie amongst fellow paddlers.

Everything you needed including food, beer, and great paddling was available on the site, which was adjacent to the Burlington Bay municipal campground. Sunday found the group heading up the North Shore of Lake Superior for a little one way cruise from Twin Points (one of the new Safe Harbors along the shore) to Silver Bay Marina. The marina is right next to the taconite facility mentioned in a previous post. The BDM is contemplating the taconite pile just before we landed. Cove Point Lodge, with a nice little sheltered cove....of course.....offers pizza, burgers, and a nice tap beer selection only 3 miles from the takeout point. Another fine paddle with a group of fine folks.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Wolf attack on kayaker

The attached article was sent to me by GurneyGranny, who received it from the 'head wolf guy' with the Wisconsin DNR. Even though we are avid, some would say rabid, deer hunters we also enjoy having wolves in our area. GG and Podman both took the tracking course and we do a wolf survey in our area in the winter for the Timberwolf Alliance/Wis DNR.

There are a heck of a lot more winter killed deer than wolf killed deer (believe me, its really easy to distinguish between the two) and its fun snowshoeing our woods in the winter. I've never been too concerned about wolf attacks, even when strolling back to camp from my bowstand after dark and hearing them howl a 40 away. Maybe I should worry a bit more.........nah, too much 'real' stuff to worry about.

Kayaker fights off hungry wolf on North Coast

Larry Pynn, CanWest News Service

Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2007

VANCOUVER -- A Port Moody kayaker's recent life-and-death struggle with a hungry wolf on B.C.'s remote North Coast -- the second wolf attack in the province in seven years, and the first thought to involve predatory intent -- has prompted a conservation officer to warn against taking wolf encounters too lightly.

"This was a predatory wolf attack," conservation officer James Zucchelli confirmed from his Bella Coola Valley office.

The 31-year-old kayaker was setting up his tent on a beach on the coast when an old female wolf emerged from the bushes and attacked, Zucchelli said.

The kayaker fought with the wolf for several minutes, suffering bites to his leg and hands as he tried to pry its jaws apart and put it in a headlock.

He dragged himself and the wolf several metres down the beach to his kayak, removed a 10-cm knife from his life- jacket, and repeatedly stabbed the animal.

The wolf fled and the kayaker called for help on his marine radio. Employees from a nearby resort rescued him, then killed the wolf with a shotgun blast.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Our very own slip!

The Tally's music on the water season is in full swing. Last night a few of us paddled over to the dock are on the west end of White Bear Lake to enjoy Michael Monroe on the Tally's stage. We also enjoyed some fine 'hors doovers' and an adult beverage or three. It was an ecumenical gathering with sailboaters, pontoon folks, we kayakers, and even an errant wind surfer who kind of adopted our group. It was also the location for the official SKOAC 'social paddle". The Bessemer Convivialilst was leading that group and gave us a forlorn look as she and her charges headed around Manitou Island while we slackers headed for the dock and the wine. A thunderstorm hit and we figured there would be no safer place than among the sailboat masts. See Kiwibirds blog for some real lightning tips and a superb photo as well. During the music and the rain we kept hearing reports that the 35W bridge had collapsed. Evereyone hauled out their cell phones to check on friends and loved ones. Had the BC and one of our other SKOAC board members not taken alternate routes because of the construction they may have been in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. Goes to show you what happens when you take your infastructure for granted.

This weekend its off to Two Harbors and the Bettys Pie 5 mile race. Many of us have been training (by eating pie, of course) for weeks now. A full report will be issued upon our return.