Friday, May 27, 2011

I have been to the cold North Atlantic and fear no man.

Last night's kayak guide training took us around Kettle Island, off Magnolia. i.e., the Atlantic Ocean. We're an eager, enthusiastic pod of kayakers, and the Guide-guides, an expert pair, skilled in paddling, guiding paddlers, and sharing their love of the experience.

But the Atlantic Ocean is big, and a kayak, even in a sheltered bay, feels small. Out there bobbing like a cork, or one of those bottles shipwrecked sailor stick a message in, the kayak felt really, really small. With a good five foot swell, rolling in across open water from Portugal we'd drop into the trough and loose sight of our fellow kayakers, only to find them paddling along right beside us as we climbed to the crest.

Reaching the shelter of the lee side of Kettle Island we regrouped and shared out thoughts. “What I kept thinking of” said one of my fellow guides-in-training, “was Paul Revere.”

“Pardon?” I replied. Thinking perhaps she was relating riding the swell to spreading the alarm, and also that she was a bigger history geek than previously suspected.

“No” she said, “before The Ride. The British were marching to Marblehead to seize their ammunition. Paul Revere (who apparently really liked to ride that horse) rode out to warn them, and the British were met by a militia of Marblehead Cod Fishermen refusing to let them pass and informing them that “We have been to the cold North Atlantic and we fear no man”

Yeah, hand-lining in a dory off the Grand Banks does put the fears of a suburban kayaker in perspective.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I've never met a cheese I didn't like, and apparently, liverwurst, when made well can be very tasty. But bratwurst? Bratwurst as some explaining to do. Milwaukee is the reputed German homeland in the US, so their bratwurst is the best, I just don't get how it could have so much stuff in it and taste so bland.

But lets go back to the Cheese. I walked into the Wisconsin Cheese Mart yesterday and thought I was in heaven. They have lots and lots of great cheese, all local, all so very good it will be hard to decide what to bring home. They also have a full bar - with 20 local brews on tap (@$3.50 a glass). But wait, it gets better. They also have a lunch and dinner menu, and on that menu is grilled cheese.

So it came to pass that after a long day of flying and walking I found myself drinking a lovely beer and eating the best grilled cheese ever.

At night I attended the opening reception for the conference - where they also served local cheese, and local beer (in fact they served only local beer, and local wine and local soda - which is very cool). They also served all the local meat products, and that where I had the bratwurst, some other unidentifiable meat product, and the tasty liverwurst.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Kayaks and Bikes

Kayaks are the bicycles of the water-going world. A manufactured, technological wonder that leverages man's natural mobility so was to allow him to go further and faster, under his own power, while still blending with the environment.

Unlike bicycles however kayaks have along history. The iqyak and baidarkas having been in use for thousands of years, the bicycle was invented in 1817.  But like the bicycle, where originally there were only a few 'models', there are now several specialized styles, each with its own specialized purpose.

There are short little kayaks for whitewater , fat round kayaks for splashing about in ponds, two seater kayaks for taking the kids out, open kayaks with special fittings just for fishing.  The kayaks we'll be working with in the class are Ocean-going / Sea Touring kayaks. Long and narrow but still stable, plastic, and relatively easy to manoeuvre in  a heavy chop.

We spent the second day of class working with the different types of kayaks, learning how to fit people for them and some general handling techniques. I kept thinking of Eliza, back in the barn in Connecticut, patiently waiting even as I cozied in an out of tsnumias and optmas and a few other models.  It is amazing how well, and how poorly a kayak can fit. For in this, they are again like bicycles. Seemingly easy to fit anyone, each one has a number of small adjustments that sync your body and the 'machine' to easy the transition of power, long-haul comfort.

...and there is nothing like the feeling, when you hit your stride on a long haul, be it by bike or by kayak.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kayaking Guide Training - Back in the Gear

Last Thursday I started a 6 week kayak guide training course. As rain poured outside the barn / kayak center the instructor, describing the pros and cons of necessary gear, wove a magic tale of neophrene, gore-tex and carbon fiber (and pro-deals!).  The gleam in his eye as he talked of his spray skirt and werner carbon fiber paddles was easy to see, and I felt the old, all too familiar gear lust rise in my soul.

But I digress, the kayak guide training class lasts 6 weeks and will cover, not only kayak skills, but also give us the run down on all the local spots and conditions preparing us for taking tours out over the summer. We'll mostly be kayaking in the Essex River (Massachusetts) but they have some trips planned around Gloucester and Manchester too. I'm not too sure I'll be doing that much guiding but the chance to go paddling with knowledgeable locals and add some skills was one I didn't want to pass up.

There are 9 of us in the class, covering a range of backgrounds and ages, but everyone appears to be an avid kayaker, eager to get out on that 40 degree water. Which brings us back to the Gear.

(After years of waffling I ordered the Kokatat Whirlpool Bib and Rogue Dry Top)