Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lake Superior mid winter update

On Monday afternoon it was 46F(8C) in Minneapolis. It was actually up to 36F(2C) when we left the Porkies Monday morning. This morning it is -15F(-26C), a swing of 61 degrees F (28C) in the downward direction. We live in an interesting part of the planet for sure; if you don't like the weather just wait a couple hours. As far as my favorite lake is concerned, there are large ice packs floating around at the whim of the wind direction. The same south wind that brought the warm air on Monday also blew most of the ice on the shores of the Porcupine mountains out into the lake, leaving only the few stray ice floes in the top picture. When the wind changes it will look like the photo below.

Chequamagon Bay near Ashland, WI is frozen to the point that cars, trucks, and fish houses are all out on the ice chasing the elusive trout and salmon. RangerMark said that the ferry boat from Bayfield, WI to Madeline Island is done for the season and that the ice boat(s) are operating until the lake is frozen solid enough for the ice road to be used. People need to get to school and work from the island and the wind sled is the only option.

At the head of the lake in Dululth the last ship of the season, the Mesabi Miner, came into port for winter layup on 22 January. It had just cleared the Lift Bridge when it got stuck in the ice, according the the Duluth Shipping News. You can read about and watch video of the tug Kentucky and Coast Guard cutter Alder getting the Mesabi Miner free from the ice on the DSN link above. When we crossed the Blatnik Bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota we noticed at least a dozen ships in layup including at least five thousand footers. One of them, the Walter J. McCarthy Jr, had a mishap where it hit some underground object and punctured the hull in the engine room. The crew shut the watertight doors, evacuated, and the stern sank in 20' of water. My friend and former co-worker, now a Wisconsin expat living in Georgetown, Texas sent me a video of the local Duluth TV station reporting on the mishap. You gotta love the local TV news.

With another week or so of cold weather we will be able to walk or snowshoe out to the mainland sea caves to check out the ice sculptures. This can be a treacherous area to paddle in the summer and is the area where the two most recent kayak deaths have occurred. Once the ice is thick enough its a fairly pleasant mile walk with some excellent ice formations in the caves. When the seasons change the lake changes right along with them. I'm already starting to think about spring.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cultural clash? Or crash?

We loaded up the sleds with 4 days worth of gear and started trudging up the snowmobile trail to the point where the trail to our back country cabin in the Porkies headed into the woods. This is always the most aggravating part of the trip due to snowmobiles that seem to be roaring by on a regular basis. In addition to the noise and the piquant smell of burnt two cycle oil, it seems about half of them don't even slow down or give you that little finger wave accompanied by the slight nod of the head that we stoic midwesterners seem to favor. I'm sure they are thinking 'look at those tree hugging jerks, dragging their hummus, granola, and yuppie wine into the woods on their skinny skis'. We of course, are thinking ' lazy ass beer swilling belt heads, blasting from bar to bar in a futile attempt to stay under .24 blood alcohol level'. It seems that we always have this need to embrace this conflict and the deep seated belief that the activity that we are engaged in is the 'correct' one in any number of ways, allowing us to look down on those who haven't quite reached our heightened consciousness. The powerboat-sailboat-kayak dynamic in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior in the summer is a classic example and the snowmobile-cross country skier is its winter version. Both activities and the individuals who practice them have their pros and cons, their large proportion of responsible participants and their small percentage of idiots. Like our national political situation, its just difficult for us to say something positive about the 'other guys'.

All this changed, at least for a few minutes, as a line of snowmobiles came past us. RangerMark and I had fallen about 100 yards behind the VoiceOfReason and GreenThumbChef and were exchanging friendly waves with the snowmobiles, who had slowed down to about 30mph. Suddenly one sled ran up on the back of another, spun the guy out and sent both machines into the ditch, fiberglass flying all over the place. A third machine attempted to avoid the mess and wound up hitting the guy who had been thrown off the first machine. Ranger Mark and I unclipped from our pulks and ran over to make sure everyone was OK. Fortunately they were other than possible bruise or two, some cracked fiberglass, and a massive adrenaline overdose. We all pitched in to drag the two machines out of the ditch and get them running. As we clipped in to start our human sled dog routine again, a couple of the snowmobilers said, "Hey guys, thanks for stopping". And with that simple comment, which resulted from our simple act of human concern, for a brief moment it wasn't really 'us' and 'them' anymore.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Porkies, here we come

The VoiceofReason and I will be joining RangerMark and the GreenThumbChef in a backcountry cabin at the Porcupine Mountain State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a four day retreat. All the 'fun' of winter camping without the tent and frozen clothing in the morning. At 60,000 acres (almost 95 square miles) its the largest wilderness park in Michigan and one of the largest in the midwest. It has a huge stand of virgin hemlock trees, many of which are 200 years old, as well as rivers, lakes, huge springs, and some of the finest cross country classical ski trails in the area. And it is of course, right on the south shore of Lake Superior. The basic plan is to throw your gear and provisions on a pulk or sled and either ski or snowshoe them into the cabins.

The weather is supposed to warm up to above zero F so is should be a great weekend. One of the most invigorating aspects of the weekend for me is the complete quiet. No TV or radio in the background, no annoying beeping of electronic gadgets (cell phones are banned and don't work there anyhow), and no internal combustion engines. A person needs that on a regular basis to recharge the psyche. My goal is to get some serious kilometers in on the ski trails and some serious reading and relaxing in on the cabin bunks. There may even be an adult beverage or two thrown into the mix. I'll be back at my blogging post on Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More snow stuff

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love the winter and I especially love snow. My Norwegian and Irish ancestry makes me despise the 90F and humid days. I also function much better in cooler weather and on cooler water. This is why Lake Superior is my favorite place to paddle. Up until August there is no way you are going to be hot paddling on Gitchee Gumee. Its a wonderful benefit of living in this part of the planet.

Snow serves many purposes, not the least of which is filling the lake back up in the spring when it melts. One of the most interesting features of a good blanket of snow is the way it transforms the landscape. When the leaves fall off the trees and there is a covering of snow in the woods you can see a long ways and any movement is very obvious. This is a big plus for those of us who want a freezer full of venison steaks and sausage going into the winter season. The snow also transforms common objects into something very unlike what they really are. Like the mound of snow in the top photo..............

...............or is is really a park bench that the VOR is taking a snowshoe break on??

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snow by any other name..........

There is a debate over how many words the eskimo or Inuit people have for snow. We have a number of descriptors of various snow conditions ourselves from champagne powder to slush. This weekend the SKOAC Renegade relay team practiced in the icy, wind chilled reaches of Ironwood, Michigan. RonO, TheManFromSnowyLegs, and I hit the ABR trails for a bit of cardiovascular conditioning when the temps were about -4F with a 'brisk' northwest breeze. The trails were sheltered, meticulously groomed, and we were dressed for subzero immersion but it was the snow that threw us off. Ron and I assumed our skate skis would glide like the wind on this hard frozen snow but that was not the case. The snow crystals were so hard and sharp that it was like skiing on sandpaper. No glide at all and the uphills were murderous. We hit the ski shop at ABR and discovered we could iron on some special flurocarbon wax that would help us out. It was roughly the same price as gold dust. We opted for the much simpler and cheaper 'switch to our classical ski's' solution. Even then, using Polar wax, the skis were a bit sticky. Don't get me wrong, I much prefer that to the balmy 35F conditions with sloppy snow that requires one of the nastiest substances known to mankind....klister wax. If you need to use it, rest assured it will be on your skis, clothes, car, face, private parts, and any other surface it can insinuate itself onto. For this reason I invested in my first pair of no wax classical skis this winter. For very slushy as well as very icy conditions the no wax skis seem to perform well, even though some folks liken it to a one speed bike vs a ten speed.

In any event, we hit the trails and got a good workout but not before Ron broke his skate skis and the MFSL broke his sunglasses with a diving Pete Rose-like headfirst slide down a hill. As we headed back to our rental condo to join the ladies for lunch I voiced what all of us were thinking at the same time. "I think maybe I'll have a little wine with my pasty for lunch".

(photo's courtesy of RonO)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Global Warming on hold

The SKOAC Renegade Racing Team is off to the Ironwood/Hurley area on the Wisconsin/Michigan border for some cross country ski training. My guess is that sales of Al Gores book will be inconveniently slow up there this weekend. Here is the forecast:

Bitterly cold. Mostly cloudy with snow showers likely. Areas of blowing snow. Snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches. Highs around 2 below. West winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 70 percent. Wind chill readings 22 below to 32 below zero.

The BessemerConvivialist is bound and determined to downhill ski. This Norwegian boy is definitely out for that activity. When the wind sweeps across Lake Superior on a day like what is forecast, it picks up just enough moisture to make it able to cut through any clothing and chill you to the bone. Then it drops that couple of inches of snow which swirls around and adds to the miserable effect. No, the only place to be outdoors is deep in the evergreens on your snowshoes or cross country skis. In front of the fire with a book and healthful adult beverage ain't a bad choice either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lake Superior boating season is over?

When I clicked on the nearshore forecast for western Lake Superior this morning, the following (non) forecast popped up:

320 AM CST WED JAN 16 2008

320 AM CST WED JAN 16 2008
MARCH 18TH...2008.
It would appear that the paddling season has officially ended for this year. Which makes me want to hit the lake even more. Its just human nature when some people hear 'you can't do that' or 'its over' that they want to do it even more. My new rollling rib and bracing bars have arrived from Feathercraft and I've been told by my associates at work that I need to get down to Puerto Rico to visit some plants that we support down that way. I'll need to bring the Feathercraft, of course. Maybe that will distract me long enough to leave Lake Superior alone until when the near shore forecast is issued again, "around March 18....2008".

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Skijoring.....kinda sorta

When the SKOAC Renegade Racing team trained up in Mora last weekend, we had Rookie the Wonder Dog accompany us on the Memorial Trail loop. Yesterday I figured if he could run the trails he might as well be dragging me behind him. Skijoring is a kind of cross between sled dog running and cross country skiing. I dug out an old skijoring harness from a previous mutt, hooked the boy up, and headed for the 4k golf course loop. The only problem was what sort of line I might use to hook me to the dog. Being a guy who likes multipurpose gear and hates buying a piece of equipment that can only do one thing, I figured my Lotus Designs towing rig from my kayaking pfd should do the trick. It has a nice wide belt, a quick release buckle, and a sturdy carbiner. If I can tow another kayak with it, Rookie should certainly be able to tow me. My skijoring theory was that if the VoiceOfReason was skiing ahead The Rook would trot along and follow her. This theory worked well about 50% of the time. We humans with our exceedingly poor sense of smell just don't realize the olfactory pleasures that lie at the base of nearly every tree and fencepost, especially in public areas. Rookie was not only aware of them but felt that they were far more interesting than following the VOR down some ski track. Several times I glided past him as he was verifying just who had visited that particular tree before him. It was tough on me a couple times as far as keeping my balance with all the jerking but it went bad for the Rook a couple of times too. As I was cruising down a hill he decided to run off to the side for some extracurricular sniffing. I knew I couldn't stop in time and when the line tightened up it jerked him off his feet and I dragged him down the hill about 10 yards. The look of surprise on his face was priceless. The other incident was a bit more traumatic, especially from a male perspective. He had fallen behind as I climbed a slight hill. He went up racing ahead, oblivious that the tow rope had slipped from the middle of his back to right between his legs. As the rope became taut, the tow bag came flying up and slapped the boy right in his you-know-what. He yelped, plopped down in the snow, and turned around with a very accusatory look at me.

Other breaks of course, had to be taken when nature called. The whole skijoring concept seemed to work OK however, at least well enough so I'll try it again. The poor guy was so tired and mildly traumatized when I stuck him in the car after the 4k loop, that he didn't even do his usual whining and complaining. He just laid down with a somewhat quizzical look on his face as if he was saying, "I don't know what the heck that was but it seemed kinda fun; how did I do?". I plan on getting him out again to get both of us a bit better shape. The goal will be to see if we can go straight down the trail at least 60% of the time next time out. Gotta do this in little chunks I guess.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dalles of the St Croix cliff jumping revisited

While digging around in some old posts I stumbled across a belated comment taking me (and RangerBob) to task for my assertions and his comments about the cliff jumping ban on the St Croix River that the park service instituted after a teen ager drowned back in 2000. I figured perhaps my memory of the event had become hazy in the past seven years and this fellow seemed to be a knowledgeable resident of St Croix, possibly a park employee, and had some good points. So I took the criticism seriously, seriously enough that I sprung for $6.95 to access the St Paul Pioneer Press news archives. Here is the story that I found:

St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)

July 11, 2000
Section: MAIN
Page: 1A

Dennis Lien, Staff Writer

Swimming and cliff jumping in a particularly dangerous section of the St. Croix River have been banned after a drowning last month.

The National Park Service, which manages the nationally protected St. Croix north of Stillwater, said Monday that swimming in the river - and by extension, jumping into it from cliffs - will no longer be allowed in a four-mile section from the Northern States Power Co. dam at St. Croix Falls, Wis., south to the Franconia Landing.

The emergency order is in response to a fatal accident last month, one of many that have occurred over the years in a stretch of river dominated by high cliffs and turbulent and strong currents.

On June 22, a 14-year-old St. Paul boy drowned after jumping from a cliff on the Wisconsin side of the river. John Lee and some friends were jumping from cliffs at Wisconsin Interstate State Park, and Lee drowned while trying to swim to the Minnesota side, authorities said.

``I know we will save lives,'' said Anthony Andersen, superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. ``I don't know whose lives we will save, but I know we will save them.''

In the past 12 years, Andersen said, about a half-dozen people have died in accidents in that area of the river, commonly called the Dalles. He said some have drowned while trying to swim from one side of the river to the other, while others have died after jumping from cliffs and not surfacing. Often, alcohol has been a factor, he added.

It has been illegal to swim in the river at Minnesota Interstate State Park, but there was no similar restriction at the state park on the Wisconsin side of the river, Andersen said. He said it was only recently that the Park Service determined it had jurisdiction and could impose a swimming ban.

Although the Dalles area only covers about half a mile of the river, Andersen said the Park Service chose to ban swimming along four miles of the St. Croix to include upriver rapids and some dangerous stretches downriver. It will now begin a public review process aimed at establishing a permanent policy. Along the way, modifications to the existing ban are possible, Andersen said.

Chisago County Sheriff Randy Schwegman said he favors a ban on cliff jumping, but he said an outright ban on swimming could be going too far.

``What is the definition of swimming?'' he asked, citing canoeists and kayakers who often must get into the river to launch their craft or to recover from miscues.

``This is really getting to be a little broader than I thought it would be,'' he said. ``There are parts of the river that are shallow. You can wade out there. Can you walk in the water? How does that work?''

Andersen, however, said the rule and enforcement are aimed at people who clearly are swimming and are not using a watercraft.

Polk County, Wis., Sheriff Dan Mosay said the order will help lessen problems in that area.

``It's always difficult, not just for the loss of life and the trauma for families and rescue personnel, but a lot of time and expense is spent there by rescue personnel,'' he said. ``The current there is so unpredictable.''

Like Andersen, Schwegman said banning cliff jumping will save lives.

``This won't totally prevent drownings because you still have people who ignore laws and do it anyway,'' Schwegman said. ``But it certainly will cut down on the number.

``It can be a very dangerous area,'' he said. ``People are unfamiliar with the different rocks. Some are safer than others to jump from. There are strong currents, and there is a variance in depth. In some parts, it's 80 feet to 100 feet deep, and a half a mile away, you can almost walk across.''

Dennis Lien can be reached at or (651) 228-5588.

A synopsis of the criticism basically was that the drowning which precipitated the ban was not due to substance abuse (or it wasn't a "major" factor; this with a 14 year old boy!), it wasn't the NPS that initially instituted the ban, and its probably a good thing because its a dangerous area and it will certainly save lives. Read the blog comment and the above article draw your own conclusions.

The bottom line is that the government once again is attempting to protect us from activities that they deem to not be safe. According to the article, about 6 people have drowned in the past dozen years with alcohol "often" a factor. I would agree that it is an area that offers 'attractive nuisances' as the lawyers would put it. There are eddys and whirlpools below the bridge that white water guys and playboaters play in, there are sheer rock cliffs that rock climbers tend to want to scale, and those same alluring cliffs have ledges and lower areas that we thrill seekers used to love jumping off into the river. Not to mention that fact that the canoe outfitter in this 'treacherous' stretch of river launches families to paddle down to Osceola or William O'Brian State Park. Oh, and its a great place to fish and swim. This is also the oldest state park in Wisconsin's state park system and there is a lot of history here.

My main questions are where is 'the line', what gets banned next, and who the hell is in charge? Regarding the first two, if a couple of rock climbers fall or a play boater gets sucked into a hole and drowns will they ban those activities? It worries me that two kayakers have drowned at the Squaw Bay sea caves in the Apostle Islands over the past two years. This rate is double that of the one every two years in the news story above. Who knows, could be a ban in the future! To read the park administrative rules and how they made, especially if you are plagued by insomnia, click here. The key paragraph is telling: "This Compendium in no way restricts or limits the authority of the Superintendent to otherwise place, at any time, further short term restrictions or closures on any use or activity for public and employee safety, natural and cultural resource management and protection, maintenance, or any other administrative activity". Which to me means the superintendent can add any damn rule that he feels like, whenever he feels like it, no matter what it says in this comprehensive list of rules.

So what exactly is banned? Even the authorities didn't seem to know. Can you roll your kayak or practice a wet exit? Wade out to cool off? And, to address my last question, who is in charge? There were quotes in the story from the NPS superintendent and sheriffs on both sides of the river. Actually the police in Taylor's Falls and St Croix Falls, the two towns that straddle the park could comment also. And lets not forget the DNR in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. For years Minnesota (The State Where Nothing is Allowed according to a local radio host) banned swimming while Wisconsin did not. This is pointed out in 'Campshoes' criticism of my previous comments. Years ago, No1 son and I were admonished by a MN DNR employee for swimming across the river....after jumping off a Wisconsin cliff of course, and ordered to get out and walk back across the bridge, a 3 mile trudge. We smiled, thanked her for her concern, and swam the 40 yards back to Wisconsin. Maybe in this card game the county trumps the city, the state trumps the county, and the Feds are the red queen that trumps everyone. I'd sure like to know.

This whole debate will continue and is a microcosm of the "911 syndrome" which seems to want to make us choose whether we want to be safe or free. In reality there is a middle ground, with the proper balance point being hotly debated. I tend to lean toward the more libertarian attitude of responsibility and consequences. When I paddle Lake Superior I wear my pfd, dress for immersion, and carry a VHF radio. When we cliff jumped in the Dalles, we checked the depth off the rocks with an anchor and noted the gates on the dam when we crossed the bridge. Should my freedom be limited because another member of the public chooses to paddle to the sea caves with no spray skirt paddle float, and their pfd under the back deck bungee? Or pound a six pack of beer and jump off the highest cliff in the Dalles with 3 gates on the dam open? 'Campshoe's' conclusion in his critique of my post was, "In short: check your facts, check your personal garbage, and be safe on the water". I treasure my personal garbage and I have my arms tightly wrapped around its smooth black plastic bag and don't intend to throw it in the dumpster any time soon. The facts were checked and I strive to do everything within reason to be as safe on the water as me and my paddling partners can possibly be. This is an important issue on a number of levels. Decide where you want to be between safe and free and make sure others, especially those that can move you in a direction you don't want to go with the stroke of a pen, know your position.

Lake Superior Dance Theater?

I'm going to admit that I'm not a big fan of modern dance. OK, the reality is that I've never been to a modern dance performance. I've been to plenty of classical dance performances, and not just the Nutcracker at Christmas. I had the pleasure of watching the Bolshoi company perform Don Quixote in the Palace of Congresses inside the Kremlin while the Bolshoi Theater was being remodeled. I was not prepared however, for this headline in the entertianment section of todays St Paul paper......."Lake Superior enfolds dramatic theater piece by energetic company". As the story says, the action takes place in a sunken ore boat at the bottom of Lake Superior. Not a situation that would inspire dancing in my estimation but what do I know? The choreographer, a fellow named Carl Fink was inspired by stories his father told him about being a crew member on an ore boat in the 1950's. I would suppose a guy who writes a blog on Lake Superior should go see the performance but I'm noncommital at this point. If I indeed 'pull the trigger' and go, you can bet I will review in on this, your full service Lake Superior blog.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Redneck rampage update

The Duluth News Tribune reported this morning that two of the men involved in last summers harassment and terroristic threats of campers in the BWCAW have plead guilty to reduced charges and agreed to testify against the other 3 knuckleheads involved in the incident. You can read about the incident in its entirety in a post from last August. The interesting thing will be to see what kind of plea agreement and sentence the 'ringleader', one Barney Lakner, will get on 22 January during his court appearance. I think that will give us a pretty clear picture of how northern Minnesota views this incident. This guy basically led a bunch of teen agers on this terror spree involving beer, liquor, illegal fireworks, and a bunch of guns including an AK-47, a .45 auto, and a .22 rifle. He's charged with 13 felonies, a bunch of misdemeanors, and has been convicted of alcohol related offenses and operating a snowmobile illegally in the BWCAW in the past.

There has been and always will be a certain level of resentment when the Federal government decides to appropriate land, using eminent domain or whatever means, and then limits or alters the usage of said land for the local populace. I can personally tick off dozens of stupid and aggravating adminstrative rules that I've personally encountered in the Apostle Islands NLS, Voyageurs NP, the BWCAW, and the St.Croix Wild & Scenic Riverway. These rules normally are designed to protect the stupidest and most irresponsible users of the facility from themselves and others. The feds are normally unresponsive about making these rules common sense friendly and some poor ranger is stuck enforcing them, which tends to aggravate people even more. The locals who grew up in these areas are usually the most affected and look at the outsiders (also known as 'customers') that flock to these areas as a major component of the problem. We were all laughing this weekend as we skied past some of the VOR's dads deer stands along the ski trail. Someone suggested that they be labeled 'vertical warming huts' to avoid offending any of the anti hunting south Minneapolis yuppies (no offense to the BessemerConvivialist and Irish Pirate) who may ski past them. We all have different values and sensibilities which are developed as we grow up and experience life. Sometimes they clash, but when they do the issues need to be looked at and discussed with some level of common sense and spirit of compromise.

I think ol' Barney might be going away for a long time. Heck, the Feds (or the Canadians) haven't even charged him with anything yet and have probable cause to hang several more felony charges on him. What those morons did was unexcusable. But the attitudes that fermented to inspire this attack, that underlying "we been screwed" on the part of the local rednecks and the holier-than-thou attitude of the urban 'environmentalists', need to be addressed, discussed, and modified. Or you can be sure that stuff like this will continue to occur, perhaps with worse results than even this incident.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

More ski training

Even thought the Janauary thaw hit today with temperatures in the low 40's F, the SKOAC Renegade ski (& kayak) team managed to get some kilometers in up at the VOR and Mayor's parents land north of Mora, MN. I tried out my new waxless skis and while they are slower than my wax skis they will be a welcome addition when the rising temperatures dictate violet, red, or klister waxes, some of the nastiest substances known to mankind. The woods are mixed hardwoods and conifers and were covered with hoarfost, giving the forest ethereal quality due to the flat light and low visibility. We have a long, long way to go from a conditioning standpoint but, like those first long paddles of the spring, you feel better and better each time you get out. The trail segments, being analyzed in the photo by Rookie the Wonder Dog, are nicely laid out and just the right length for we stamina challenged kayakers.
RonO, being a dedicated cross trainer, left early
this morning for an ISK pool session but the rest of us took an hour or so to do a few loops at the excellent nordic center north of Mora. We have a few weekend ski events scheduled but the key is the snow and weather in Minnneapolis/St Paul. If we can get out and train 2-3 days during the week all will be well. If the snow melts it could get ugly. If the snow holds and things work out next weekend I too will be multi tasking ala' RonO with a ski on Saturday and a paddle session on Sunday morning. You gotta love winter in the northland!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A rolling boat?

I can't remember whose blog I made the comment on about needing (wanting? Lusting after?) a good rolling boat. The response was amazing. Several people had a pretty good idea of what a 6'4" 225# guy needs in the way of a good boat to develop my traditional rolls. Anas Acuta, Outer Island, Greenland Pro, and a vintage Pintail were all suggested. In fact I paddled and rolled a '92 Pintail at the last pool session I attended. ChrisG had his Pintail, complete with ocean cockpit, at the pool for a SKOAC rolling session. It is fitted out and foamed for the perfect fit....once you get into it, that is. Getting out was interesting too. I flipped the boat, popped the skirt, and waited to fall out. Except I didn't fall out. I wound up wiggling out; its a good thing that I am used to being upside down under water while holding my breath. I remember my initial unfounded trepidation about kayaking involved being trapped upside down and unable to free myself from the spray skirt. That thought did flash through my brain as I was wedging myself out of the Pintail. It is however, a very responsive and nimble boat.

I also thought building a skin on frame would be interesting. I watched my friend Pat from Thunder Bay, ON build a beautiful skin on frame at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. No2 son and I built a Chesapeake LT 17 so I have a bit of an idea about the time and effort needed for a SOF. Something tells me that the VOR might not be receptive to the idea of stitching a SOF in the dining room, an excellent construction technique that we implemented with the CLC 17 while in the bachelor mode.

After watching Dubside roll everything up to and including a garbage scow, I decided that modifying my Feathercraft Big Kahuna might be the cheap, efficient, and space conserving way to get a good rolling boat. You can just see the yellow Feathercraft on the left in the photo of the three Olson boys (my two sons and I) off Shovel Point, north shore of Lake Superior. I spoke with the helpful folks at Feathercraft out on Granville Island in Vancouver. They suggested retrofitting the boat with thigh braces and a low profile back rib to have a craft similar to the black Kahuna that Dubside uses in his videos and for his commando kayaking forays. Out came the trusty VISA and the parts are on their way to Minnesota. It was suggested that I wait until spring and fresh water because chlorine is not good for the urethane deck.... or for the human skin and mucous membranes, as far as I'm concerned. Anyhow, we shall see how this experiment works. Even though the snow is perfect and I had an excellent skate ski tonite, I know I'll be just a little bit excited for the spring thaw when my rolling parts arrive from Vancouver.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Real Winter

Chequamegon Bay is frozen and has enough ice for ice fishing houses, even though Fish Creek at the head of the bay is open and flowing nicely into the bay. For the first time in a number of years we have a decent amount of snow on the ground on New Years Day. Spirit Mountain Ski Area in Duluth, MN had every single downhill run, 22km of nordic trails, and 3.5km of snowshoe trails all open at the end of December for the first time in years. There are still lake freighters coming into the harbor but the ice is getting thicker and harder to break up. The last salt water ship, the Isadora, a Polish vessel, left Duluth for Barcelona loaded with wheat on the 15th of December.

In addition to being fantastic for us winter afficianados, this is very good news for Lake Superior. September and October were fairly wet months along the south shore, as those of us who spend most of those months sitting up in trees can attest. This means the ground was pretty well saturated when it froze and the snow fell. In the spring, instead of soaking into the ground most of the snow melt should run off into the lake. This will help get the lake up from those record lows we saw in August last summer. If the weather stays cold and we get good ice cover over a large portion of the lake, water loss from evaporation will be slowed also. We shall see if the snow and cold continue over the winter but at this point things are definitely looking good.

Photo from Duluth Shipping News