Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summertime wander to Lac du Flambeau

looking east at Big Island in the Turtle Flambeau flowage
The mostly annual getaway this year was a fair jaunt. We hopped on Hwy 51 and drove it for hours, through Minocqua until it was time to turn left on Hwy FF, a little used, worn out, twisty, old, two lane through the middle of nowhere. Except that it led somewhere. And that was to another left turn on to O'Meara's Lane, followed ~1 mile later by our final left turn into the driveway for our rental cabin.
The panorama above was the view from the yard. Not the wildest place I've ever been, but it fit the best for the largest number of wishes on the vacation list. The Turtle Flambeau Flowage is, by the way, the largest publicly owned wild space in the state of Wisconsin. I could see it as the BWCA of Wisconsin. There are numerous primitive campsites sprinkled throughout the flowage.
Also worth noting that my wife caught the most fish this year. On a 35 year old #2 Mepps spinner of all things. From our Ultimate kayak while I was paddling her around. Nothing worth keeping, but big enough to make her happy. It is fun to see people catch fish, young or old, the thrill of the unknown is hard to beat.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Canoecopia 2014 version

So this was a year of walking the aisles instead of having a booth at CC. Judging by how far away I had to park, it seems like this was a good weekend for everyone at CC. Packed parking lot and crowded aisles at noon on Sunday. I guess there are a few people interested in paddling..... All the usual players were there for the most part. My favorites were two little guys that I happened across. It seems like there is always one aisle that has all the innovators in small booths packed into it. Does kind of make me wonder why I never see anything innovative at the big booths..... Meg McCall was at the Angle Oar booth. Her idea, company and working prototype caught my eye the most out of all the booths at CC. I thought the idea her engineer dad came up with, that she is pushing out into public was a great one. a very cool innovation from Meg McCall and her DadWhen I fish from kayak, paddleboard or canoe, where to put the paddle is a constant issue. That was the first thing that came to mind for me when I saw an Angle Oar. Finally a place to "keep" the paddle where it doesn't fall in and float away. All I have to do is let go of it. The other thing I like about it is that I can easily paddle with one hand on either side of the boat. Usually what happens is that if I want to make an adjustment the paddle is always on my other side, so I have to put everything down to get the paddle. With an Angle Oar one half is always available on either side. Very cool. To me anyway. I think to many other paddling fishing types as well. I love to see people that recognize an opportunity and fill the gap. Looks to me like Meg McCall and her Angle Oar device are on the way!!!!!
Angle Oar

The second thing that caught my eye was a portable grill from SLATWORX, (with a singular X no Ks plural!) another favorite piece I saw at Canoecopia 2014 I think this is also a great idea. Not quite as gap filling as the Angle Oar, but I do think the Slatworx grill does put a fresh new twist on a piece of camping many people do not care for - the existing dirty grill at the established campsite - prior usage unknown. I know the possibility of what the prior camper did to the grill bothers my wife. It bothers me if I think about it too much. The slatworx grill offers an easy alternative. Easy to setup, take down, and package away. Good stuff.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Making a Bent Shaft Laminated Canoe Paddle

So last week was a big week for Quietwater. The event that splashed into last week was an ebook on making a canoe paddle. As some know, Quietwater Films got its start with a series of five DVDs on paddlesports. For me personally, producing the five projects for QW Films was especially nice because of my life long interest and enjoyment of paddlesports. Working with Darren Bush and other big names in the paddling world like Jimbo Meador, remain high points both personally and professionally.

Along with the enjoyment of paddling and the experience as a professional guide (again back in the day but a bit further) is one more piece. Paddlemaking. The wood and hand tools type of DIY making things. A few years back I decided that paddlemaking was something I wanted to do more of. One of the pieces of that was writing a book about paddle making. Last week was the culmination of that effort. Making a Bent Shaft Laminated Canoe Paddle is the first of three books on paddle making, and like all the other firsts, remains a ground breaking eye opening effort and entry into the fast moving and evolving indie publishing world.

Working with cedar strips has long been a big interest. Hand tools and the quiet shaping of wood for me just plain feels good. In this increasingly digital world we live in, going out to the garage and escaping all screens and sounds is yet one more pleasant pursuit. Immersing my ears in the one of a kind sound that a spokeshave makes is a pleasure. Watching a piece of wood take shape due to my own hand efforts is a pleasure. I hope that some of you paddlers out there on occasion enjoy it as well!

Ironically enough, writing the book required lots of digital screen time. But writing has its own strange sort of intrinsic reward as well.

Anyway, the ebook is out there. Globally even. Paper book soon to follow. If like me you are looking at a still growing snowbank, I hope you'll consider reaching for a small screen (like an iPad) and reading about how you can start adding your own hand made bent shaft paddles to your quiver!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Summer of Water Everywhere

Seems like every time I turn around there is an article about water or the weather. My schooling is in hydrogeology (underground water) and my interests have long had to do with hydrology (surface water), so I pay attention to the wet stuff. Last year (2012) was a drought here in sunny SoWi. To my eye it did appear that way, with many ponds that I had only ever seen at a high level, relatively speaking, starting to show big new islands and large mud flats. So 2013 comes along. Decent enough snow year and then an incredibly wet first six months.
One of my first thoughts is always whether or not the sandbars are getting washed away on the Wisconsin River. I don't know, but if they are I imagine new sand is always being created and washed down to replenish the stuff on its way to the delta down in Louisiana.
This is a wet year by any measure, but the river seems to be plugging along in fairly normal fashion. It looks to me like the sandbars s/b out and available. It's just a matter of me being out and available. Here are some looks at the water data for this year. Pay attention to the left side axis as the units might change from graph to graph.
2013 Spring and Summer water levels
Big spring and a few big events, but levels are dropping fast as the dry months come along.

But how does 2013 stack up alongside 2012? or the preceding years for that matter?
Our current wet year suddenly does not seem so wet when viewed alongside the past few years.

And then there is rain fall.
WAY above the average at least for the records from 1981 and onwards.

Certainly compared to last year cumulative rain fall is vastly different

Then again looking at things over a hundred year span:
Now things seem pretty normal. In fact to my eye, the 1880 water year seems larger than anything else by a good measure, with 2006ish coming in a distant second place.
What's it all mean? It still rains, the river still flows and I love paddling!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paddling the Wisconsin River

A midsummer float from Sauk City to Arena with kayaks, paddleboard and canoe

Father's Day 2012, my three daughters are all big enough, the little dog can swim, and my wife is interested. Finally, I get to take my family down the Wisconsin River, something I have done, but they never have.
We started out unloading our four boats at the public landing across the street from the picture of kid and sign for the Sauk City public boat landingthe Kwik Trip, which you'll see as soon as you cross the bridge and arrive in Sauk City (coming from Madison). With the boats unloaded, then the shuttle, a necessary evil when doing rivers. My oldest daughter and I recrossed the bridge and boogied down Hwy. 78 to Arena, found the backroad to the Arena landing, parked the van and trailer and made it back to Sauk City in less than an hour, which was good because the natives were restless sitting there waiting for us to get back.
picture of a SUP on the Wisconsin River Middle kid took the paddleboard, big kid took the Native Watercraft boat, little one was with me in the canoe and my wife took the speed boat, a rec kayak (Cayuga from Old Town). She loves that boat and soon left us all in the dust. Four boats, five people and a dog. Water, sun, some food, and about twelve miles of downstream floating. Water level was at about 4900 cfs, pretty low, but this level also ensures lots of sandbars. I made the standup paddleboard and the paddle. Two of my favorite projects ever. All the boats are pure pleasure though and we switch off all day long.
Lunch is a great sandbar across the river from the base of Ferry Bluff.picture of a sandbar lunch on the Wisconsin River Beautiful. The water is clear brown and moving along at ~3mph maybe? The wind kind of cancels out a chunk of that, but it still carries us along.
On we floated. picture of youngest kid kayaking on the Wisconsin RIver The day got a little long. I did not account for how easily an upstream wind can negate the current. A 12 mile float downstream, I thought would be largely done by the current. Instead it was a 50/50 thing with us paddling more than I had planned/hoped for.
We left Sauk City ~10:30ish and got to the Arena landing ~3:30ish, with a decent lunch stop at the Ferry Bluff sandbar.
Would do it again in a minute, although I will probably put in at the next downstream landing, which was ~four miles downstream from Sauk on the river left (Madison) side.
This is a perfect family float. At 5,000 cfs there were no rapids, lots of shallow places to walk, lots of sandbars. A great stretch of river to enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quietwater Canoecopia 2012 seminar on bent shaft laminated paddlemaking

Hello world!

Nancy Saulsbury, who has long been doing some great work at Rutabaga as well as equally great stuff at Canoecopia, called recently and informed me that my proposal was accepted.  I will be giving a couple of seminars on making bent shaft laminated paddles.

The seminar will show what the steps in bent shaft paddle making look like. I will discuss how I do the laminating (hint: it's not rocket science), the bending, and the fiberglass bits and pieces. The tools and forms will be shown and shared as well. I will also be offering paddle making kits and an instructional DVD for those that want to try making their own paddle. I use these techniques to make standup paddleboard paddles, but these same techniques work equally well for making shorter canoe paddles too.

This has long been a labor of love for me. I made my very first paddle back in fourth or fifth grade. Still have it. I'll bring it to the seminar. Woodworking is something I have always done purely for the pleasure of being in the garage, smelling cedar and watching the curl form behind a spokeshave. Hours fly by and the cup of coffee goes cold on the workbench.

A few years back I made a hollow wood standup paddleboard and realized that I had no paddle to go with it. So I proceeded to make a standup paddleboard paddle. And then a few more. A couple years later, both board and paddles are still in use and have spent many a paddle stroke in Lake Kegonsa and the Yahara River, my two most-used local paddling spots. For the record Fish Camp Park on the northwest corner of Lake Kegonsa is a fine place to put-in and either go up the river or out into Lake Kegonsa.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

BLM maps of public islands in Wisconsin

picture of a map showing public islands in the Wisconsin River
Last year at Canoecopia 2011, Derek Strohl, a Natural Resources Specialist with the BLM, had a booth full of maps. Being a sucker for maps and pictures in general, I wandered over and looked at the maps he had.  We talked for awhile and the story he had to tell was one of public land that is little known and very lightly used.  Islands.   The maps he had, revealed the publicly-owned and therefore accessible, islands, all in/on rivers and flowages in the state of Wisconsin.

Turns out that when surveyors were doing their thing back in the day, for whatever reason, they rarely went out into the rivers and did their surveyor thing on river islands.  So those islands were skipped.  Fast forward to now, et voila we, the public, can paddle out to these river and flowage islands and enjoy them.  This is a good thing.  The map at the top shows a chunk of the Wisconsin River in the center part of the state with numerous islands.  Yes it is kind of an urban thing.  But if you want a simple day trip or only have a few hours, something like this can hit that spot.  As before, no need to wait all year for an epic roadtrip to the BWCA, when you can go paddle to an island on the way home after work or on a Saturday get-away.

Here’s how to get them, via an email from Derek Strohl.  He writes:
1.Go to
2. Enter your e-mail address in the Email Address box, and enter the jumbled text in the next box.
3. When you receive an automated e-mail confirmation message, click on the link provided and reenter your e-mail address and the jumbled text.
4.After you are logged into the system, click on pub then ES then maps  then publicislands
5.Select the map or maps to download by checking the box next to each map that you want.
6. When you have checked all the maps you want, click Get Selection(s)

Derek also writes:
I understand that you may not be spending much time on the waters for the next few months, but, when you do, I would love to hear from you if you get to visit any of the BLM islands.

Happy paddling/hunting/fishing/skiing

picture of BLM Derek Strohl contact info

P.S. After learning the hard way- Don't pick too many or the zipping takes forever and the page times out.