<![CDATA[The Weathered Paddle         - The Weathered Paddle Blog]]>Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:10:17 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Predator Revisited]]>Tue, 12 Jan 2016 19:39:17 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/the-predator-revisitedWinter has finally arrived and accident reports are starting to roll in.  Today I saw where three kayakers died from cold water immersion in Texas.  ...and it's only January.

A few years ago I introduced you to the The Predator, aka, cold water immersion.  It was a brief introduction and I didn't say much about how he actually kills.  I'll try to be more explicit in today's post.

Just to review...  

Cold water, as defined here, is water with a temperature of 60 °F or less.  Some investigators state that water in the 60-70 °F range also qualifies as cold water.  I do not argue this point.  I chose 60 °F because whole body exposure to water at this temperature is excruciatingly painful and highly likely to trigger the negative consequences we attribute to immersion.  Let's begin.  Remember, I'm talking about that ruthless killer Moulton Avery labels as "Predator."

The Predator attacks in four phases.  If you capsize in cold water, the initial shock of immersion tricks your respiratory reflexes in ways that can cause you to drown yourself.  If this approach fails, the predator then attacks your musculature and deprives you of your ability to self-rescue or swim to safety.  At the same time, the predator begins its third phase of attack by slowly sucking the heat from your body until you are rendered unconscious.   Finally, if you manage to escape its clutches, the predator may have already sealed your death by putting you at risk for circum-rescue collapse.  Those rescued from cold water immersion have died aboard rescue vehicles, in ambulances, and hospital beds hours after their rescue.  Cold waters lethal reach extends beyond the water’s edge.  It is best to know what you are getting yourself into and to prepare before paddling cold waters on a warm spring or winter day.

Phase 1: Cold Shock and Sudden Disappearance syndrome.  If you fall overboard or capsize in waters below 60 °F and are casually dressed, cold water attacks your breathing.  It attempts to drown you by triggering your “gasp” reflex.  This reflex institutes an uncontrollable urge to suddenly and deeply fill your lungs with air.  Unfortunately, if your head is under water when this occurs, your lungs will fill with cold water instead.  Once triggered you cannot prevent this chain of events.  The reflex is hardwired.  Your breathing will lock in full inspiration, further preventing the inspired water from being expelled.  The increased fluid in your lungs displaces air, reducing your buoyancy, and causes you to float with gravity towards the sea bottom.  This constellation of events is so predictable they have a name; sudden disappearance syndrome.5 In some individuals, the airways also constrict to prevent breathing once surfaced.  As if this were not enough, others develop fatal heart arrhythmia, stroke, or develop occluded coronary arteries; i.e., experience a heart attack.  All of this occurs within the first minute of exposure. 

Phase 2: Swim failure and mental confusion.  If you survive the first minute, cold water next targets your abilities to save yourself.  Blood flow through your extremities and most organs, with exception of the heart, lungs and brain is reduced.  In evolutionary adapted mammals this reflex is beneficial and allows the animal to stay submerged for extended periods.  Humans, however, have only a partially developed reflex.  Whereas in sea mammals blood flow redistribution occurs in conjunction with a slowed heart rate that tends to keep blood pressure normal and reduce the workload on the heart, humans experience a spike in blood pressure.  This can overload the heart causing it to fail, and/or setup an irregular heart rhythm.  Skeletal muscle strength and coordination deteriorate rapidly as the muscles and nerves controlling contraction are deprived of oxygen.  Re-entering a kayak becomes difficult to impossible.    Factor in the fact that fine motor coordination is also effected, you quickly lose the ability to use your radio to call for help.   This assumes, of course, that your airway is still open and you are capable of speaking.  As stated previously, mental confusion sets in early, depending upon how rapidly the cold water bathing your neck cools the blood supplying your brain.  Panic develops as you hyperventilate uncontrollably and errors in judgment follow.  “How far is that shore?  Can I swim to it?  I’ve done it before.”  No, no, no!  You have never experienced this before.  Swimming in cold water has no comparison.   In March 1968, 9 elite Marines, trained as water survival instructors, capsized a canoe 100 yards off Quantico’s shoreline.  They were wearing sweat suits and had floatation seat cushions, but no PFDs.  All 9 drowned.  Swimming to shore in cold water is almost always a bad idea.  Phase 2 can last between 5 to 15 minutes, but it seems to last forever.

Phase 3: Hypothermia:  Even though a person may be shivering uncontrollably, he is not considered hypothermic until body temperature falls below 95 °F.  Shivering is a process your body uses to generate heat via muscular exertion.  Somewhat surprisingly, most adults remain in the normothermic range for more than 30 minutes following cold water immersion.   This is an important fact to know, because knowledge can help you hold your panic at bay.  Panic speeds up heat loss by promoting unnecessary movement.   Unconscious does not occur until body temperature approaches 92 °F.  For the purposes of this article, suffice it to say you will probably have another 1 – 6 hours of consciousness in water between 50 and 60 °F, depending upon your body mass and movements.  This time decreases to 30 minutes in 32.5 °F water.   Heat loss through exposed skin occurs 25 to 30 times faster in cold water than it does during passage of air at the same temperature over the same surface area.  Movement dramatically increases the rate of heat loss.  Your best chances for survival, should you be unable to re-enter your kayak, is to assume the HELP position and wait.2 

Phase 4:  Circum-rescue collapse.  Circum-rescue collapse is a general term for the physiological events that occur at the time of rescue or during the re-warming phase.  While a victim is in the water, water pressure compresses the extremities and forces blood from the limbs into the vessels of the lungs, heart and brain.  At the time of extraction from the water, this pressure is released and blood from vessels of the trunk can refill the extremities.  This causes pressure in the vessels supplying the brain to fall.  Rescue teams have learned to horizontally extract cold water victims using a stretcher, rather than lifting them vertically from the water, thus reducing the risk of circum-rescue collapse.  A similar phenomenon can occur during re-warming.  As the victim’s body warms, constricted blood vessels in the extremities open and refill with warm blood that was contained in the trunk.  In so doing, cold fluids are flushed from the extremities into the trunk, causing body temperature to plummet.  This is called “after-drop.”  Circum-rescue collapse carries with it severe, and sometimes fatal, consequences.

Preparing for a cold water paddle.  With preparation, you can beat the predator.  Dress properly for cold water conditions and always swim test your gear.  You should learn the HELP and HUDDLE swim positions in case you find yourself having to remain in cold water for any extended period.  Clubs like the Chesapeake Paddlers Association offer classes on cold water immersion.3 Consider taking one and learning more about cold water immersion and proper dress.  Wear either a wet suit, or a dry suit with thermal undergarments.  Never paddle without a PFD!  It is a life saver.  Include a diver’s hood in your cold weather gear to keep your neck and head protected.  The sensors that trigger the gasp reflex are located in the neck and facial regions.  Covering these areas will dramatically reduce your risk.  Before every launch, while wearing your PFD, wade into the water and rest there for a few minutes.  If you get cold during this brief exposure, you will know you are not dressed for survival.  This brief pre-exposure also provides you with an opportunity to test for holes or tears in your dry suit and will let you know if you have inadvertently left a zipper open.    

Rescuing a victim after cold water immersion. If you are involved in a cold water rescue, how you treat the victim will vary, depending upon his condition.  You can prepare for this by familiarizing yourself with the necessary considerations.4   The first priority always is to get the victim out of the water and onshore as quickly as possible.  In the case of mild hypothermia, begin re-warming by replacing his wet clothes with dry clothes and/or blankets.  More severe exposure requires additional attention and caution.  Remove clothing only if it can be done with a minimum amount of movement.  Do not massage the extremities in an attempt to “get the circulation flowing,” and never give a victim alcohol. Both can lead to circulatory collapse and after-drop.   Place the victim on his back with his head slightly lowered.  Call emergency responders immediately.  One final comment: No person is dead until he is warm and dead.  I state this to remind you that persons without a pulse and who are not breathing have been successfully resuscitated.  Do not stop resuscitation until emergency responders are on the scene.  Your job is to keep the predator from claiming his victim.  Do not let him win.  


1.       http://www.coldwatersafety.org/nccwsRules3.html#tabs-3
2.       http://www.pfdma.org/choosing/coldwater.aspx
3.       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OsNiF2yJQk
4.       http://beyondcoldwaterbootcamp.com/4-phases-of-cold-water-immersion
5.       The Biology of Human Survival.  Life and Death in Extreme Environments. By Claude A. Piantadosi, Oxford University press, 2003.

<![CDATA[Signs to look for when doing swim supports]]>Tue, 26 May 2015 13:18:33 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/signs-to-look-when-doing-swim-supportsIt will soon be summer and swim support season. To familiarize people with what to look for if someone is drowning, Mario Vittone has written an excellent article about the signs that precede a drowning event.  They are not as Hollywood portrays them and I highly recommend that you read the article so that you to can recognize them.  I have read his article before and re-read it again last evening to familiarize myself with the signs.  But in sitting back and thinking about what is stated there and what I have experienced first hand, I have come to the conclusion that the list doesn’t accurately reflect what a kayaker will see as a swimmer begins to drown.

I’m sure that each of Mario's ten points do occur at some point during the course of a drowning, but with respect to a kayaker watching over a swimmer during a swim event, the first 5 points are meaningless. All swimmers swim with their mouth at water level; you can’t see a swimmers eyes during a swim to tell if they are glassy or not; tilted heads are common; and with respect to hair, well, swimmers wear swim caps. Now, if the first 5 refer to a swimmer who is posting, that’s a different story.  Posting, or swimming vertically, is one of the final stages a drowning victim goes through before going under for the final time.   But I am getting ahead of myself...

Signs 6-10 are important and everyone should be aware of them. But kayakers should not expect them to occur in any order. There is a temptation to look at the order of the listing as implying worsening degrees. The events can occur in any order. Once you see any of these symptoms, things will begin going south very quickly, so act immediately.

If you see a swimmer struggling to move forward, but making slow progress, watch him critically and do not leave his side. If you hear a swimmer choking, gurgling, or coughing frequently, seriously consider having him pulled immediately. He can't keep his mouth above water and his breathing is poorly timed. He is beginning the drowning process. If he is verbally unresponsive to your questions or inattentive to your presence, or if he is stopping frequently and going into a vertical position (posting) go to him. If he doesn't grasp your deck lines on his own, consider grasping hold of him or entering the water with him if you have life saving experience. Do so only after your rescue call for help is acknowledged. Waste no time, for you have none to spare.

Kayakers become complacent in swim supports. We are too used to offering encouragement. In the Columbia swims and similar shallow water swims, we see a lot of aquatic stress, for lack of a better term. Many of these swimmers are naive to open water swimming and when moving into dark waters of the early morning, where they can’t see bottom, they panic. We easily move to them and they readily accept our proffered bows. Some will rest a few moments, gather their wits about them and with a little encouragement, go on to finish the race. In these races, we kayakers are mostly shuttlers, retrievers, or cheerleaders.

In the longer, deep water crossings, like the Potomac River Swim and the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, the swimmers are more experienced and less likely to panic. In fact, many have completed these crossings on previous occasions. Here, our role is not that of cheerleader, but monitors. Kayakers in these events are the appointed Guardian angels, so to speak. Our principle responsibility is to maintain a constant vigilance on the swimmers status, looking out for any of the signs that may indicate he is nearing the point of exhaustion, in danger of becoming confused or disoriented, and to act promptly if any of these signs present. Here, acting means to have that swimmer pulled from the race, even if he objects. You are making a life or death decision.

Swimmers drown for numerous reasons, among which are: a cardiac event happens, exhaustion occurs, a traumatic event happens. Cardiac events usually go unnoticed. The heart stops beating, respiration continues and the lungs fill with water. If consciousness is regained, the swimmer is beneath the surface and resurfacing is unlikely unless he is wearing a wetsuit to offset negative bouncy. These swimmers usually just disappear from the pack and do not get noticed until the final role is taken at event’s end. Alternatively, they are found floating. Traumatic events are less likely, but have occurred. Drowning occurs with loss of consciousness. Exhaustion is, or should be a preventable event, for it is accompanied by the signs and symptoms outlined. The swimmer only has to be observed by an attentive observer.

I have five suggestions for kayakers providing swim support:

First, don’t allow yourself to become complacent. If you are doing one of the long, deep water support, remember, you are monitoring experienced swimmers. A swimmer that shows any of the symptoms outlined above means that swimmer needs support now.

Second, cheer-leading is for shallow water events only. It makes no sense to give encouragement to a swimmer having difficulty at the 3 mile marker to continue on in a 7.5 mile swim.

Third, do not assume that the swimmer showing signs of distress will grab hold of your deck lines as he approaches exhaustion. He won’t. A state of mental confusion may precede complete exhaustion and prevent the swimmer from saving his own life. A swimmer in the Bay swim a few years ago, dove for the bottom of the bay when approached by a support kayaker, only to float lifelessly to the surface moments later. Another swimmer in the Potomac Swim began swimming toward the open waters of the bay and failed to respond to rescue boaters. Marine police had to enter the water and handcuff the swimmer before he could be brought on board. He was severely confused, belligerent, and disoriented.

Fourth, talk to any swimmer showing any signs of distress. If he doesn’t respond meaningfully, or does not respond at all, consider having him pulled from the race immediately.

Fifth, don’t be afraid to call for a second opinion. If you suspect a swimmer is in difficulty, but can’t bring yourself to have him pulled, get a second opinion from another kayaker. Explain what the difficulties are and make the decision together.

What to watch for:

1. Any swimmer who is not flat (horizontal) on the water.

2. Choking, gasping for air, gurgling, bubbling noises made by the swimmer.

3. Failure to reply to your questioning, or otherwise inattentiveness.

4. Signs of confusion or disorientation.

Good luck out there and bring'em back alive folks.

<![CDATA[Kayak déjà vu?]]>Sun, 15 Mar 2015 19:09:01 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/kayak-dj-vu Yesterday I participated in a class held by the Chesapeake Kayakers Association titled “Sea Kayaking 101.”  This is a daylong class, held each year, intended to be an introduction to sea kayaking.  I gave an hour long presentation on sea kayak design and selection.  Other topics were directed towards what types of clothing are needed during the different seasons, paddle selection, emergency equipment requirements, USCG rules and regulations, areas of the bay and its tributaries that are interesting to paddle, and so on.  You get the picture.  It was a general, all around introduction to the sport targeting persons who are interested in sea kayaking, but lack the knowledge to commit to the sport. 

The opening remarks to the class focused on a list of the many varied reasons why other kayakers enjoy their sport:  “To see areas of the bay where nature has gone untouched;” “To meet new people;” “To see the Lotus' in bloom;” “To experience the great outdoors;” “To camp on island beaches,” were among the long and seemingly endless list of reasons.  Each reason was accompanied by a PowerPoint slide for illustration.  The slide set was, I admit, a beautiful collection of photos that many of us have snapped over the years.  Gorgeous sunset scenes, islands covered with seaside goldenrod in full bloom, river scenes with tree limbs that overhang the water to form a sort of paddling tunnel, were among the many. I think I said something like “To capture Mother Nature’s beauty in places where others have not ventured”, which of course is ludicrous, because human eyes have seen every part of the Chesapeake.  Still, I count kayakers and canoeists as members of a very small and select group that has had occasion to experience the beauty of the Bay close-up.  We paddle the Bay’s waters in all kinds of weather; we land on shores that other boaters dare not risk; we camp on beaches and in seaside woods where few others have; and we see fields of water-borne blossoms that others will never see except in photographs.  We are indeed lucky to have taken up this unique sport.

At the end of the sessions, all of those who presented stood on stage to field questions.  By far the majority of these questions were technical.  But one gentleman couched his question in the form of an unanswered statement.  “This morning the introduction included a list of reasons why other CPA members paddle.  I’d like to hear the reasons why each of you paddle.”  Hmmm…  Was this a trick question?  Was this gentleman testing us?  No, he was simply interested in hearing our responses.

Each presenter gave a very personalized and honest description of what motivates their paddling experience.  As I stood listening to others, it occurred to me that I had overlooked my original reasons for taking up kayaking.  The kayak is a means of personally re-visiting the rich history of the Chesapeake Bay using a similar means of transportation employed by early explorers – personal watercraft. 

I tried to state my reason in words.  It wasn't completely thought out, but I think some of the points came across because I noted many eyes brighten and smiles forming on faces as heads straightened to listen.  I’m pretty sure I struck a note with many who may not have been aware that they too shared similar thoughts.  The kayak has allowed me to visit the many towns and fishing villages built up around the perimeter of the Chesapeake by a water route.  My view from the water must have been much like that of the early colonists.

This morning, as I sat in my family room reading a copy of Bay Country, I had a déjà vu experience.  I’ve been here before, or I remember this scene.  Well, it wasn’t technically a déjà ju experience.  It was more like a sudden flood of very pleasurable memories, brought back by having shared very similar experiences in a similar setting.  This morning’s experience was triggered by Horton’s descriptions of when he used to hunt geese with his father on the eastern shore.  As a teenager, I too used to hunt the cornfields of southern Indiana with my father.  Our game was rabbit and quail, not geese, but the memories of walking the fields with my father hold special feelings.  As I read, I began to consider that paddling triggers similar feelings.  Most often they occur when coming back to port after having completed a paddle that began in a village from where watermen work.   I will look at the houses along the water, the docks, the curvature of the shoreline, the play of sunlight on the water and sky, and think, “I’ve come home to this port before.”  I get a distinctly warm sensation of attachment that is difficult to explain.  More importantly, I think it is that feeling of attachment that keeps calling to me from the Bay.  Sometimes, I just can’t help but think that I really have paddled into those ports in some other life.  Could this be the real reason that I paddle?  Because I'm searching for my original home port?

<![CDATA[Prepping for this Summers Paddles.  Meals and menus]]>Fri, 21 Mar 2014 02:28:28 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/prepping-for-this-summers-paddles-meals-and-menusI haven't done a lot of backpacking, so I've never really had need to dehydrate my own meals. When doing longer kayak trips, I've always run out to our local REI and purchased commercially dehydrated complete meals. This year I've decided to do things differently. We have a series of paddles planned that will take us down the length of the Chesapeake Bay over the course of the summer months and I plan on taking long dehydrated meals that I have made here at home. This has been a real challenge.

What made me change my mind after all these yesrs, you might ask. The honest answer is, I don't really know. I ran across a website while I was looking for recipes and the web-author published his complete recipes in a book titled Recipes for Adventure.  The author/chef, Glenn McAllister, has placed all of his recipes in a 250 page PDF file that you can purchase for a nominal fee through Glenn's website http:www.thebackpackingchef.com

To be honest, I wasn't looking for dehydrated meals recipes, I was looking for recipes for what I call "wet" meals. Typically, I take along fresh vegetables and prepackaged items that I can cook up quickly over single burner stove. At the end of a long day of paddling, there is not much light left and I'm eager to get my tent pitched and hit the sack.  I'm not much on meals that take a lot of preparation.  Wet meals work because, except on long trips, one is not constrained for space if the kayak is packed properly.  

But this book caught my eye because it could very well be titled The Complete Book of Dehydrated Foods and Meals. The first half of the book deals with how to dehydrate ingredients.  The latter half is how to combine these ingredients into edible meals. For a novice dehydrator like myself, the first chapter was very informative.  It talks about what to look for in a dehydrator. The pros and cons of different types of dehydrators are discussed. By the way, I have not yet purchased my own dehydrator. I am borrowing my son's, until after I determine if I like doing this myself. So far, it has been a lot of work. My wife is more than a little peeved with my spending so much time dehydrating common food stuffs like corn, peas, green beans, ham, hamburger, scrambled eggs, and, well, you get the picture, about anything you can eat.

My approach is to first build a small library of dehydrated ingredients, then to begin putting together meals.  This way, I can pick and choose ingredients to make something that is not only palatable, but will replenish the calories I have burned on the day's paddle. All this takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and planning. As I write this, I am dehydrating 5 bell peppers and 6 jalapeno peppers. It is 8 o'clock p.m. The peppers will take six to eight hours to dry at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. I have timed the process so that when I get up at 4:30 AM tomorrow morning, the first thing I need to do is remove the peppers from the dehydrator and vacuum pack them. I have pre-cut 3 sweet onions that these will go into the dryer before I leave for work.  Tomorrow afternoon, I will pack the onions upon my return home.  

One of the things I especially like about Glenn's book is that he describes several methods for dehydrating especially difficult ingredients. For example scrambled eggs are easy o dehydrate, but notoriously difficult to rehydrate. When rehydrated scrambled eggs taste powdery and inevitably end up chewy.  Likewise, the common food ingredient, hamburger, is rubbery tasting when rehydrated. Glenn has devised several food combinations that make the rehydration process more complete. I won't get into how he does this, because those are the secrets you pay for by buying his book.  Suffice it to say, they work.  

So, what has all this got me so far?  In my freezer, I now have packaged Beef Stroganoff, Cheese O'Rama (a spicy cheese Mac meal), Easy Cheese Rice and Beans, a breakfast meal of Green Grits and Ham (grits, peas and dehydrated deli ham), a recipe called Kick'n Mac, and another for spicy Red Beans and Rice.   I am working on the ingredients for a Rice, Meat and Veggies meal and another for Shrimp and Cheesev Grits.  Sound good?  Check back at the end of the summer and I will let you know my ratings for the taste of these recipes and whether or not the effort was worth it. Meanwhile, I'm content that I have a nice library of meals to do my paddles down the Chesapeake Bay.

If you have suggestions for meal menus, please upload them.  I'm always up for something new and tasty.
<![CDATA[So, you're a history buff.]]>Wed, 07 Aug 2013 01:51:36 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/so-youre-a-history-buffI hope this makes you smile.

During last Sunday's swim support I struck up a conversation with one of the guys on a Fire and Rescue Boat, or rather, he struck up a conversation with me. He asked, "Why are you paddling with that board?"

I tried explaining to him it wasn't just a board. "Sure, it began as a board," I said, "but now it was a Greenland paddle." He just stared at me and replied, "But it's a stick."

"Yes, we call them sticks also," I said. "But this paddle design originated in Greenland and the Inuit have been refining it's design for hundreds of years. The Euro style paddles that the others out here are using are rather recent designs. While they have advantages of having more power at speed, the Greenland also has it's own advantages. One is in the ability to maneuver the kayak in difficult conditions and in rolling."

"But it's a stick. How can it be as good as those wide blade paddles?"

"Well," I explained, "it actually has about the same surface area as those plastic paddles have, it's just distributed differently. Instead of taking a grasp on the water immediately, it grabs more slowly as the paddle dives deeper and deeper into the water. And I can control how much face is in the water by the angle I use the paddle. Moreover, because of the design, I can get quite a bit of leverage by holding it like this", I said, grasping the paddle for a sweep roll. "And it doesn't grab as much air in windy conditions as do those wide blades."

"But it's thin, and it's just a piece of wood," the fireman said.

"Yes," I said, "but it's been refined over hundreds of years use. And it has worked in a variety of harsh conditions for the Inuit. It's the ideal all-around paddle."

To which the fireman replied, "Ah, so you paddle with it because you're a history buff."

Exasperated, I nodded and replied, "Yes. I guess I am."]]>
<![CDATA[Who will look for you when you don't return on time?]]>Fri, 24 May 2013 16:21:53 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/who-will-look-for-you-when-you-dont-return-on-time I suspect most of us do not file float-plans routinely.  I used to think of the float plan as being necessary only when I was going on an extended trip or leading a group.  Most of the time when I’ve been given float plans by others, the check-in times have been ignored by the kayakers involved and it’s been unclear what action should be taken as a result.  Did he forget?  Are they OK?  Should I call the authorities? 

Well, my thinking was recently altered by a free web service called Float Plan Registry.  If you are not familiar with this service, by all means click on the link provided and register today.  It could help save your life.  Did I fail to mention, it’s free?

Float Plan Registry is a site created by a boater, for boaters.  It makes filing a float plan so simple that it should become routine for all of us.  Once you register, you predefine all of your vessels (kayaks) and potential contact persons.  The information requested for your vessel is: manufacturer, model, hull identification number, hull color, deck color, year of manufacturer, and photo, if you desire.  For contact persons, you enter their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.  You may add addresses if you choose.  All of the information is maintained securely in the systems database.  With this information in the system, it’s a simple matter of defining an itinerary and deciding at which waypoints, if any, you wish to do a check-in.  The web site then mails the float plan to everyone you name in your contact list.  It’s like, “file and forget.”

I like everything about the website, but what I like the most is that it is active.  On the day that your float plan becomes active, all of the check-in points are monitored.  If you fail to check-in by a stated date/time, your contact person is notified.  (I’m guessing the notice is via e-mail, and not phone call, but who know, this could change.)  The important part is that you are not forgotten.  The system is monitoring your plan and steps to initiate action will be taken if you fail to make a check-in on time.

The system also allows you to “snooze” an alert.

Additional features will make this website attractive to our community.  In one section you can create a  “Virtual Yacht Club.”   Here, you may identify friends/other kayakers and check to see where they are paddling this weekend.  I think the possibilities for this system are limited only by our imaginations.

I know I will be routinely registering my outings.  There are days when I get home early and want to go out before my wife gets home.  I can send her a copy of my float plan that will let her know what time I can be expected and who I’m with.  On those extended outings, the system will keep track of my whereabouts and notify my contacts where to begin looking should I fail to check-in on time. 

If you find other uses for this registry, I’d love to hear about them.  I’m always bowled over by creativity.  Float Plan Registry is going to revolutionize the way we kayak, I think.

Followup note:

I have talked with the owner of this website. Currently, if a Check-in time is missed the system will send e-mail notifications to the contact persons for up to 8 hours afterwards. He intends to add SMS texting and a recorded phone message, but those mechanisms cost money and he wishes to keep the site free. The owner said he is considering adding a Premium version to cover the cost of such contact mechanisms.  What do you think?  I think it's worth it.

Also, the owner would like feedback on the "Virtual Yacht Club" function, stating that everyone seems to like it, but no one is using it. To me it's a great means to find people to kayak with.

<![CDATA[Tackling the Chesapeake Bay]]>Sun, 12 May 2013 14:41:12 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/tackling-the-chesapeake-bay Like many paddlers of the Chesapeake, kayaking the length of the Bay in multiple, consecutive, daylong segments is one of my unrealized dreams.  I’ve never quite drummed up the nerve to begin, although I have sat for hours planning such a trip.  I only know of one other person who has done this paddle in it's entirety.  Many have tried, but been forced to abandon their attempt when Mother Nature has intervened.  She can be a real bitch this time of year.   That’s why when Josh Astor asked me if I would loan him my SPOT Tracker to give his wife some sense of security during his attempt, I was pleased to do so.

I asked Josh if he would allow me to post the trek, in real-time.  He reluctantly agreed to this, pointing out that it would add pressure to complete the trip.  I hope not, for that is not my intent.  Josh has the drive to complete this paddle and has been planning it for over a year.  My intent is lend further support for what I believe to be a very demanding trip.

I have opened this blog in the hopes that it will elicit additional information to share with Josh before he leaves port.    Also, to lend support for this attempt.  If you have any knowledge that may help Josh plan his route, please share it with him. 

Please join me in support of Josh's attempt to complete this difficult paddle.  Monitor his  progress in real-time as as he weaves his way down the Bay.

<![CDATA[The Predator Lurks Beneath You]]>Mon, 11 Feb 2013 16:07:36 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/the-predator-lurks-beneath-youThe  Chesapeake Paddlers Association is fortunate to have many talented individuals who are willing to donate their time to pass along their knowledge to other club members.  As I was once told, "It was the way I learned.  Someone taught me,  I'm only passing the information along.  It will help keep you safe."  I love that attitude.  

Anyway, yesterday CPA co-hosted another lecture/workshop on the topic of Cold Water Safety.  The speaker was Moulton Avery, internationally recognized heat and cold stress authority, Executive Director of the National Center for Cold Water Safety, and long-time fellow Chesapeake paddler.   The presentation was held at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak.

Having reviewed hundreds of accidental drowning cases, Moulton has come to characterize Cold Water as a large, hungry predator.  "It is fast, powerful, and deadly.  It has unlimited energy, no need for sleep, and is perfectly camouflaged," he states.   He paints a vivid picture, one best kept in mind while floating on it's back this winter.   You can look at cold water from three feet away and it looks perfectly innocuous.  Throw in an inviting sunrise, a little warm air flow from the Gulf, and most of us are eager to take the bait.  But don't be fooled.  Cold water is a ruthless killer.  If it doesn't fill your lungs with water in it's initial envelopment, it will try to stop your heart or cause your brain to stroke.  And if you are lucky enough to survive the initial few minutes, over the next hour or so it will literally suck the life out of you.  

Nine out of ten canoe and kayak fatalities are cold water related.  According to the US Coast Guard, in 2011 canoe and kayak ranked second out of 13 boat classifications in the number of fatalities.  The only boat classification that had more fatalities than us were the power boats.  

So, next time you consider cold water paddling; before you leave please look over Moulton's Five Golden Rules.  They will help you stay alive.  Then remember my reminder: Hunting season is open.  The predator is hungry and he will be waiting for you.  

This morning after writing this blog, I learned that as we tested our gear yesterday in 36° F bay waters, some folks in Jamaica Bay, NY faced down the predator.  This time the prey escaped, but there will be many more face-offs this season.  

Please, read the information provided on the National Center for Cold Water Safety website.  It contains much practical information aimed at increasing your chances for survival should a mishap occur.  As Moulton readily points out, no one plans to drown.  But we all also make mistakes.  On land, mistakes carry with them little consequence.   On cold water, even the smallest of mistakes can cost you your life.  We all must plan and prepare for the worst possible events that can happen.  Above all, dress for the water temperatures and wear your PFD.  Proper cold water dress will buy you time in your struggles with the beast.  While help may be only a few feet away, rescues never happen quickly and the countdown begins when you hit the water.

Good luck out there. 

Note:  The National Center for Cold Water Safety is a non-profit organization.  It relies on your charitable contributions for continuing support.  Please help them get the word out.  We need to work with them to change the statistics.   Get involved.  Donate!

Post Script.
CPA steering committee member Catriona Miller has posted Moulton's presentation on YouTube.  Due to the length, it's posted in two parts.

Cold Water Safety Part 1
Cold Water Safety Part 2
<![CDATA[Annual Greenland Paddle Reconditioning]]>Mon, 21 Jan 2013 17:35:18 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/annual-greenland-paddle-reconditioningI have added a How-To page to the Weathered Paddle website in which the why's and how's of Greenland paddle reconditioning are discussed.   It's more or less a DIY section.  Doing so at the end of each paddling season will ensure the life of your paddles.  If you have any questions on how to go about refinishing your paddles, just ask.


<![CDATA[Chart preparation for kayak navigation]]>Thu, 03 Jan 2013 02:07:15 GMThttp://theweatheredpaddle.com/the-weathered-paddle-blog/chart-preparation-for-kayak-navigationDuring the next few months, many of you will be planning next season's paddles.  If you are like me, when preparing charts you may have difficulty remembering how to account for compass variation.  Let's see, do I subtract variation when going from the chart to the compass?  Or is it the other way?  What's that mnemonic?  "West is best, east is least?"   Best? Least? Or (oh, I really love this one) "GUMA-MUGS" for "grid unto magnetic add; magnetic unto grid subtract."    Oh?  What coast is this for?  Man, I hate decoding these things; especially when they are so unnecessary.

I began this topic to address an easy way to convert between magnetic and chart bearings, but the topic seems to have metastasized into a discussion of making charts and route plotting.  So be it.  One is an integral part of the other.  Three techniques for plotting charts are described.  These techniques are not new.  They have been described elsewhere and presented in several books on kayak navigation.  I have just gathered them here for easy reference.  These are all very basic topics and do not address some of the complexities one runs into in the real-world.  These may come later.

Also included are links to some sites where you can purchase supplies and charting tools.  Finally, coming full circle, I'll show you an easy way to account for declination that does not require memorizing a mnemonic.  It just requires re-adjusting your thinking.  We'll do a couple of examples to show how to convert chart bearings to compass bearings and back again.

Let's get started.

Creating Your Own Charts

How you go about preparing your charts ultimately comes down to where you will be doing your work and the types of tools in your toolbox.  Obviously, if you are in a kayak camp, preparing for the next day's adventure, it is unlikely that you will have a laptop and printer available. But, if you do most of your work in advance, from your home computer, here is what you will need. 

Starting from scratch, you will need a chart for the area you plan on paddling.  This may be a commercially prepared chart or a home-printed chart.  Commercial charts are available through most marine suppliers.  A good source, with a wide selection of charts, is West Marine.  Most of these are larger charts however and can be cumbersome to use on the deck of a bouncing kayak.  For this reason I suggest that you print and laminate your own smaller, notebook sized charts.  To do this you will need: a computer with internet access, a color printer, sheets for laminating the final chart, and probably, a thermal laminator.  Lamination can be done using press-on sheets, but results are variable in my experience.  Given the low cost of high quality thermal laminators and the clarity of thermal sheets (2), I highly recommend investing in one.   Thermally laminated charts are reusable, can be marked up and erased repeatedly, and will quickly become the seeds for a much larger personal chart library.

You will also need a complete set of charting tools: parallel rulers, a  ruler or straight edge, a china marker, a fine or extra-fine rolling ball pen, and a high quality hiking compass.  Parallel rulers may be purchased from a marine supplier.  Hiking compasses are available from a number of outdoor outfitters.  A number of websites offer instructions on compass use.  The other items are stock at most office supply stores.

I'll talk about printing and laminating charts as the need arises in the following sections. 

Preparing routes using prepared charts, parallel rulers, and the compass rose (Figure 1)

This is the easiest and most straightforward technique for charting routes.  You will need a waterproof nautical chart with a compass rose, a china marker, and parallel rulers. 

First, using an erasable china marker, trace out your route by marking waypoints and connecting them with straight-line segments. Place an arrowhead symbol at the end of each segment to denote direction of travel.  Referring to Figure 1, lay one edge of the parallel ruler along a segment of the route, in this instance the segment from A to B, and open the rulers until the parallel ruler intersects the "+" at the center of the compass rose.  From the outer ring of the compass rose, read chart bearing for the leg.  In the illustration, the chart bearing is 62°.  Normally, this is not useful information.  What you seek for your chart is the magnetic bearing.  Read 46° (rounded) from the inner ring of the rose.  Write the bearing along the side of the line segment and mark it with "M" to indicate it is a magnetic bearing. 

In the chart used for this example, declination is 16° 30' East.  This is the number of degrees and direction from True north that a compass needle points at any location in the chart area.  Declination varies from chart to chart.  Sometimes local variations also occur within a charted region.  These can generally be ignored.

To obtain compass bearings for the remaining legs of the route, reposition the parallel rulers on another line segment and repeat.

Figure 1. Using parallel rulers and the compass rose.
Creating your own charts using online software or NOAA BookletCharts (Figure 2)

Rose Point Navigation Systems offers a downloadable, trial version of their chart-generating software called Coastal Explorer Express (3).  It comes in two flavors: Coastal Explorer Express Viewer and a version that integrates real-time positioning data from your GPS.  Both systems utilize NOAA charts.  These are trial versions that automatically download and install NOAA charts during the setup process. If you find the software useful and plan to continue using it, you may also find the purchase price reasonable.  The trial version does not uninstall after the expiration date, however, charts will not continue to be updated and some real-time features included with the software will no longer function properly, e.g, buoy wind and temperature information and wind and current speeds.  For most of us, the elements that remain continue to be useful long after expiration.

NOAA BookletCharts (1) are full-scale nautical charts that have been divided into pages and put into a printable PDF format for convenience.  NOAA supplies these online at no charge.  You may view and/or download them from the NOAA website. 

Each BookletChart contains between 9 and 28 notebook sized pages that print on 8-1/2" x11" paper.  Charts are available for the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coastal regions, as well as for Alaska and the Great Lakes.  Chart size varies from 1,200,000 scale (good for surveying large areas of coastline) to 10,000 scale (good for harbor detail).  For kayak use, the 40,000 and 80,000 scales are ideal. Page 1 of each BookletChart contains the chart index.  The charts are identified by page number and illustrate the approximate chart areas detailed.  Page 2 contains selected excerpts from Coast Pilot.  While not so useful on water, the information on this page can help familiarize you with select areas on each chart; such as the location of harbors, shoals, obstructions, buoys, and VHF-FM radio channels monitored.  Emergency information and instructions on how to place a distress call are printed on the last page of each BookletChart.

Each system for chart making  has its own set of peculiarities.  Coastal Explorer Express allows you to chart your anticipated route using your desktop or laptop computer, then print it directly.  The software automatically corrects for declination and marks each segment of your route vector containing a magnetic bearing and a distance (see Figure 2 for an example printout).  Unfortunately, you cannot select the printed area.  Sometimes you may have to print several pages before the right framing is achieved.  Also, the printed chart probably will not contain information that is key for navigation.  For example, you probably will not see a compass rose, a declination factor, or a distance scale on your printed chart.  BookletCharts share some of these same issues.  While BookletCharts always print what you see on the computer screen, all pages in the booklet do not contain a compass rose or a distance marker.  Labeled lines of latitude and longitude are missing from all but the charts that lie on the outer edges of the larger chart.

Coastal Explorer Express provides you with tools for marking and labeling your route (see Figure 2), whereas this must to be done manually on charts printed from BookletCharts.  Lets take a look at how that is done.

Figure 2. Trip route plotted using online software.
Plotting routes manually using libraried charts (Figure 3)

This method utilizes libraried charts, i.e., charts you have made for previous paddles in the same area and saved in your own personal library.  If your library does not contain a suitable chart, print one using the tools described previously.  Manual chart preparation has the added advantage of not requiring a computer.  Advantage you say?  Yes, advantage.  Libraried charts can be revised at almost any time; at home, in camp, or on the deck of your kayak.  If you decide to add a side-trip while en route, you may do so quickly and easily.  Hence, this is a very good technique to know.

You will need a china marker, a hiking compass, and a ruler (you can use the side of your compass).

Before proceeding, I need to clarify some terms.  Depending upon whom you read, the deviation from true north on any chart may be referred to as either "variation" or "declination".  Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably.  In my vocabulary they imply different things and I believe that once you begin calling magnetic deviation by it's correct term, declination, and not variation, you will no longer have difficulty converting between compass bearings and chart bearings.  The distinction is more than semantic.  The term declination stems from "decline," meaning to become smaller or reduce.  It imparts direction to the manner in which the value is applied.  Variation, on the other hand, is defined as "…a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically with certain limits."  While this does apply to cartography generally, it is not suitable for use in describing deviation on a specific chart where the variable has a finite value.

To better understand why this distinction is important, consider this.  Declination refers to the amount that must be subtracted from True North to correct your magnetic compass. That's pretty simple.  No pneumonic is necessary to determine if it must be added or subtracted.  It is, quite simply, always subtracted. Before you slam me for this irreverence to convention continue reading.

Declination is the offset that must be subtracted from True north to correct for the physical separation of the geographical and magnetic poles.   If you are planning a paddle in waters east of the Mississippi, then declination will take on a negative value.  If you are planning to paddle waters west of the Mississippi, declination will have a positive value.  The algebraic expression relating magnetic bearings to chart bearings on both sides of the Mississippi, is: 

    Magnetic bearing = Chart bearing - declination.               (1)

The catch to using a single equation for all of your corrections lies in  remembering to sign declination. East declination is always positively signed and West declination is always negatively signed.  (It's should be obvious, but just for clarity, East and West, used in this context, refer to which side of True North the declination arrow resides.  East and West do not refer to the continental areas divided by the Mississippi river.)

Let's do a few real world examples.

Converting chart bearings to magnetic, or compass, bearings (Figure 3)

You are kayaking with your buddies.  Your destination is a small island a few miles off Maryland's Eastern shore (See Figure 2).  The route shows you will have to navigate through a series of small islands.  Looking at your charts, you note that the distances between several of the islands are greater than 2 miles.  Suddenly, a bulb lights in your mind with a caption stating, "From our viewpoint we won't be able to see the our next destination at multiple points along this route.  We will have to navigate by dead-reckoning!"  This is followed by a slurry of curse words targeting your friend whom you trusted to make the trip maps, and yourself for giving him the responsibility then not checking the charts yourself.  Your charts have no compass bearings! 

You pull along the shoreline of the first island on your route and begin calculating magnetic bearings.  To do this you begin by laying your hiking compass alongside each line segment in your route; taking care that the direction of travel arrow correctly points in the actual direction of travel.  You turn the bezel on your compass until the orienting arrow points to True north and the orienting lines are parallel with the nearest longitude line.  You read the chart bearing from where the index line intersects with the bezel.  In Figure 2, this is 190°.  This is a chart bearing.  You must now convert this reading to a magnetic bearing.

For most regions of the Chesapeake, declination is 11 degrees West.  Signing declination, it becomes -11°. 

To compute the magnetic bearing for this leg of the paddle, plug the known variables into equation 1 and obtain:

190° (chart bearing) - (-11°) (declination) = 201° (magnetic bearing).

Remember, when subtracting a negative value, you add.

You write this value along the line segment as "201° M" and move onto the next line segment.  When you are through, all segments of your journey contain a magnetic bearing. 

Using the side of your compass, you next measure the distance between waypoints and convert the measurement to mileage using the distance scale.  This is written on the bottom side of each segment.  Finally, you are comfortable enough in your calculation that you lead out using your deck compass and wristwatch to guide you.

Let's do a similar problem using an East declination. 

Previously we found that the chart bearing for our route through Dana Passage (points A to B in Figure 1) was 62°.  Since declination for Puget Sound is 16°, 30' East, we needed to follow a  magnetic bearing of:

    62° (chart bearing) - (+16.5°)  (declination) = 45.5° (magnetic bearing)

In both East and West declination examples we subtracted declination.  The difference was that one was positively signed and the other was negatively signed. 

In the next example we'll convert compass bearings to chart bearings to find our position en route.

Figure 3. Obtaining a magnetic bearing from a hiking compass.
Converting compass bearings to chart bearings for position finding (Figure 4)

Equation 1 can be used to convert compass bearings to chart bearings.  Suppose while paddling from Great Fox Island to Tangier Island, a 5 NM open water crossing in the Chesapeake Bay, you wish to check how far you have to go and if you are still on the plotted course.  From your position you can see the water tower on Tangier Island that corresponds to a tower symbol on your chart.  You can also see Watts island lying to the south-southeast.  Shooting bearings on both, you obtain 169° for Watts island and 248° for the Tangier water tower.  You write each down in your waterproof notebook.  Next, you do some mental arithmetic.  Rearranging equation 1 for chart bearings, you arrive at:  chart bearing = magnetic bearing + declination.  Remembering that for the Chesapeake Bay, declination carries a negative sign, the chart bearing for the water tower is:

    248° magnetic + (-11°) (declination) = 237° True.

The chart bearing to Watts island is:

    169° magnetic + (-11°) (declination) = 158° True.

To find your position in the bay, you rotate the compass bezel so that the index line points to 158° on the compass bezel.  Then you align the orienting lines of the compass so that they are parallel to the lines of longitude on the chart.  You reposition the compass edge so that it points to the north end of Watts island and slightly re-adjust the compass to make sure that the orientation arrow points to True north and then draw a line along the compass edge.  You follow a similar procedure for the 237° bearing shot on Tangier's water tower.

You may have to extend these lines to their point of intersection, but the result will look similar to that shown in Figure 4.  The intersection is your position on Tangier Sound.  You have 3 NM to go to Tangier Island.  You have drifted south of the plotted course.

Figure 4. Triangulating your position requires converting magnet bearings to chart bearings.
Items to verify after you print your custom chart

All of the examples above assume you have a printed chart available.  It can be either a commercially printed chart or a home printed chart.  However, if you do your own printing, you should check off each of the items listed below to be certain your chart will be useable.  Do this before you laminate it.

1.  Declination:  If a compass rose does not appear on your chart, write the declination somewhere on your chart.  Be sure to include the sign, or at least note if it is East or West. The bottom is preferable, as this is where information is commonly located.  Make sure the chart's orientation is intuitive when viewed at first glance.   NOAA charts are printed so that True North is always at the top of the chart and all lines of longitudes are vertical.  If this is not the case, then add a north/south arrow.

2.  Distance Scale:  Add a distance scale if one does not appear in your printed version.  This is an easily overlooked item on BookletCharts.  A penned in scale works very nicely.  You'll need it if your charts are not printed to the same scale.   

3.  Latitude and Longitude Labels:  Label all of lines of latitude and longitude on your chart.  It isn't necessary to include seconds, but do include both degrees and minutes.  You do not want to find yourself in the position of having to call the Coast Guard for an emergency and being unable to determine your location because you failed to label the latitude and longitude lines.

Personalizing your charts

Except on rare occasions, most of my kayaking is done following a shoreline.  On not so rare occasions, I find that the feature I'm interested in charting is illustrated on multiple pages of a BookletChart.  Usually the shoreline lies near the edge of the page and there is lots and lots of open water on the page.  If this happens to you, and I'm sure it will, one solution is to combine the pages.  Simply print the pages containing the feature, then cut and paste them back together to highlight the feature on a single page.  Using a separate piece of paper as an overlay for sizing, mark off page edges, then cut the new chart to 8.5" x 11" size.  You could laminate the chart at this point, but I find that copying the hybrid and then laminating the copy works best.  This way I can always go back to the original and make a second copy if needed.  Be sure to mark the BookletChart number and the pages from which you took the sections, so that you can find the locale of your custom chart from the original index page at a later time.

Before you laminate your charts, you can do additional customization.  For example, mark the location of known put-in sites, possible take-out sites, boat-ramps, good and bad campsites, possible beach sites for lunch landings, and bail points.  Some kayakers pencil in pre-measured distances between points of interest and the circumferences of islands.  Regarding the latter, circle these distance measures to denote their special significance.  I do this on charts for areas I frequent regularly.  This will save you time if you have to make changes to your original route.

Marine charts do not contain topographical information.  You may wish to add obvious ground features, such as peaks or cliffs if you believe the information will assist fixing a location.

The detail of your chart will be highly dependent on the  scale you choose, so if you are printing charts from software, look the printed chart over closely before lamination.  Change the scale of the display version and look for details that may be absent from a low resolution image.  Important coastal features that are obvious on 1:10,000 scale may disappear on a charted printed using a 1:50,000 scale.  You can pencil these features back into your chart  before it is laminated and made permanent.
Figure 5. A custom navigational chart for potential day paddles in the middle Chesapeake Bay.
Let's Summarize 

-    Tools are available online to print your own, personal navigation charts.  These charts are re-usable.

-    When plotting routes, convert chart bearings to compass bearings using the algebraic expression:  

                   Magnetic bearing = Chart bearing - declination.

The values for declination used in this equation must be signed.  Use negative for West declination and plus for East declination.  The equation may be rearranged and solved for Chart bearing when needed.

-    Always create user friendly charts.  Each chart must include a distance scale, a declination, and properly labeled lines of latitude and longitude.

-     Customize your chart before you laminate it.  Routes are applied as needed using a china marker so that they may be erased as new routes are plotted.  The locations of put-in sites, bail-points, good campsites, and other types of  information are your part of your individual knowledge base.  They normally do not change.  If you add them to the chart, they will be there when you need them next paddle.
Online Resources

1.    Nautical Charts can be downloaded as printable BookletCharts from NOAA.  They are ideal for kayak use because they may be printed on 8-1/2 X 11 inch paper or photo quality paper. 

2.    Charts should be laminated to ensure they are not water damaged during use.  Scotch makes a very affordable thermal laminator.

Author note regarding lamination:  If you intend on punching a hole in your chart for a retainer, consider cutting a notch in the chart itself at the location of the intended hole before you laminate it.  This way the two laminating layers will make contact during the heating process.  You may punch through the lamination sheet at this spot without exposing the paper chart between the layers.  If you fail to do so, water will eventually seep into your chart and cause it's ruin.

3.    Coastal Explorer Express, from Rose Point Navigation Systems.

Selected Reading
: For more information than you ever wanted to know about navigating a kayak, check out the books and online sources below.

Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation.  David Burch
Sea Kayak Navigation.  Franco Ferrero.
Sea Kayak Navigation Simplified.  Lee Moyer. 
Kayarchy - the sea kayaker's online handbook and reference.  Sea kayak navigation (2)