Ski Season is Over

  Winter ended quickly and abruptly this year and I wasn't done skiing! This picture is from just two weeks ago at Mt. Holly on a warm and sunny Monday. I took it with my new palm pre and am surprised how good the photo quality is.

Just the day before I was up north cross country skiing with friends. We had a great time, even though I was fighting with my skis. I bought mine online for a steal, but they are wax skis, which I didn't quite understand til now. I took them in to be waxed and they asked me if I had kick wax...what? Apparently you need kick wax so you actually get a good kick and glide going. No wonder I was struggling so much and couldn't keep up with my friends on a previous outing!

On Saturday we headed to Black Mountain in Onaway, Michigan and we were the first ones on the trail. I did much better with the wax, but I still didn't feel like I was getting enough kick most of the time. Me thinks my technique could be suspect. However after about an hour or so things started to warm up and the snow started sticking to my skis. Nothing I did could  get my glide back and keep the snow off. I ended up taking the skis off and walking back about a mile, which was not easy in ski boots.  I came across a couple different people who kindly stopped, smiled and tried to offer advice. Turns out I needed the purple wax, which could have been added on top of the red when the weather warmed up. There's always next year and maybe I'll have waxless skis by then.


Rolling Fools

 Just recently my friend Amiee finally found her roll and I was almost as excited as she was. She had been working on it for almost two years. We both started out with Euro blades and I rolled first. But it wasn't easy and I watched a few of my friends roll very gracefully with a Greenland paddle. So I decided to give it a try and quickly switched over to the "dark side". It didn't take me long to find a reliable roll, for me it was almost like cheating. Greenland paddles are usually made of cedar and are very buoyant, especially when you extend them to sweep across the water before you roll up.

   But then, last year I lost my roll, don't ask me where it went, it certainly wasn't with me in the kayak. Thus I was a little worried that it had fled me once again this year. Especially since I hadn't been in my kayak since October. Us krazy kayakers get together and rent a pool in the winter months to practice rolling, rescues and other skills. Happily I found my roll was still with me, so I moved on to side sculling, which was a little rough, but I was encouraged enough to work on the static brace. I managed to land two static braces before the pool session ended.

   I planned to have pictures of me in the pool  illustrating the different skills, after all I have a brand new waterproof digital camera. However I'm having so much fun in the pool that I keep forgetting to ask someone to take pictures. I did however capture Amiee rolling, you should take a look and notice she stuck with the euro blade while I did not.


1 Year Later...

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I last posted, so much for that New Year's resolution. This time last year I was on a kayak high, enjoying the process of building a skin on frame qajaq with a great group of people. Some have since become really good friends and I cherish the experience we shared together. However the last weekend of our build, what was to be the crowning moment, was marred by learning of changes to come for me at my job.

When I moved to Michigan 16 years ago for work, I didn't really know anyone living here . What I did know was that it was a great job and I was lucky to be working for a TV Station in a Top 10 market. I joined the Union and started work in June of '94. Not long after starting work the contract between the union and the company was up and we were in a fight for benefits, working conditions and my job.

I didn't even stop to think twice about what I'd do, I stepped right up and joined the action. I've never been one to stand down from any challenge, often thriving in such an environment. There followed a bit of a long, drawn out fight with the company, but we eventually won a fair contract. It hasn't been easy, but I've enjoyed the challenge of being an active Union member ever since. Last year was my third time being part of the union negotiating committee, something I had come to enjoy. However, that all changed last February when I learned of changes and layoffs coming to my workplace. This was knowledge I had to keep to myself, not even able to share with my closest friend who was a co-worker.

My skin on frame building buddies came to my rescue and let me vent and offered advice when we went out at the end of the night for a beer or two. It took me longer than expected, but my qajaq did get skinned and has been out on the water a few times. It even made it to Michigan's Greenland Training Camp last year, where I proudly showed off all my hard work.

The qajaq isn't perfect, it needs some fine tuning, but until then I'm enjoying it. Just last week I took it to a pool session to practice my rolls. It was a nice, relaxing break from the stress of my impending layoff. Hopefully by picking back up where I left off on my blogging will also help. At the very least it will get my creative juices flowing again and I can channel them into learning new skills that will help me land an even better job this summer. Hopefully one that will allow me to continue kayaking!


Shrink wrapped and ready for a paddle

After getting the kayak home I finished the stem plates and sanded some rough edges.

Then I took it over to Chuck and he shrink wrapped it for me.

But it would have to wait a week while I went to Florida for a little Relaxation and Sunshine!

I was originally going to go to a pool session, but that didn't work out. So Allan and I decided to take our kayaks to Metro Beach for the test. When we got to our usual launch it was full of ice chunks. So we went over to the boat ramp and found some open water.

There was still ice out there so I just had a narrow space to go back and forth in front of the launch.

It didn't take me too long to get comfortable and want to do more. Since the ice seemed thin I decided to cross the channel and break up the ice. Such a bad idea. Did you notice I'm not wearing gloves? Forgot them at home. I also forgot how fragile the shrink wrap is. Didn't take long for the ice to rip holes right into it.

So the kayak started to fill with water and became unmanueverable. It was like slow motion and I knew I was going over, I was halfway out before I went under!

I tried pushing the boat, but it was full of water and sooo heavy I wasn't getting anywhere.

So I moved to the bow and tried pulling it, which was also slow going. This was very frustrating and I thought about leaving the kayak and just getting out of the cold water.

Allan had his dry suit on, so he jumped in to help...and swam right by me! Apparantly his boots had not been tightly secured and they were floating away.

I then decided it was time to get my hands out of the water, so I finally put the paddle in the cockpit and moved back down to the stern to get them out and on top of the kayak.

We finally made it to shore, look Allan has both his boots. But his zipper had not been zipped all the way and his drysuit was full of water!My hands had never been so cold! I had a drysuit on, so my core temp stayed warm. Thank you Chuck for helping me warm my hands and of course for documenting the whole thing!

I had to cut a hole in the shrink wrap so we could fully drain the kayak.

I did have one float bag in the front, but not the back. I have to make that one to fit the narrow lenth of the kayak.

Overall I liked the fit of the kayak in the short time I paddled it. I do think the masik is too high, it doesn't make contact with my legs when I'm sitting. I might think about making a new one. Fortunately I didn't have any trouble with the wet exit. So no need to remake the one deck beam that was supposed to be curved for easy entrance and exit.


The Last Saturday

I was at the shop bright and early for a very long day of work. I asked Allan to meet me there to help clear out some things we no longer needed and then to get the chines in place.

We spent almost an hour putting one side in place and then matching the other side exactly. I had to block a few up, just like I had done with the keelson. The ends also had to be planed down to make a nice curve.

Just as I finished lashing one in place, Danielle pointed out a bad curve from her perspective. The problem was two of the ribs behind the center line of the kayak were too tall. At this point I didn't really want to try and bend two new ribs, so I asked for ideas. Chuck had a good one, shave off some of the inside of the chines where they rest on the ribs. I think this actually helped, although there is still a little weird curve in them. But Chuck promises it won't affect the handling of the kayak.

So once again, what should have been simple, was not, taking way too much time. So I begged Chuck to keep the shop open after dinner, so we could work til 9:30pm. Thankfully he agreed and everyone gave a cheer out for Chuck!

After lunch I moved on to attatching the masik. Somehow instead of really tight and having to be forced into position, it was now actually not big enough as the kayak had spread out. I just decided to keep going and pegged it into place. Later on I will also lash it into place for reinforcement. I also need to sand it down some as it is a little tall.

I also added a missing deck beam between the masik and footrest. It is usually curved, but for time I just made it straight and placed it a little higher. I can replace it with a curved beam later if I don't like it after the test paddle.

I also did some extra lashing and sanding of some edges before we finally went home after 12 hours in the shop.


Stem Plates

This Saturday was another rough one. Didn't seem like I got enough done...again. I mostly worked on the stem plates. They provide a connection and fair curve between the gunwales and the stem pieces.
As you can see I had to cut into my oh so thought out stem plates and gunwales. It just seemed wrong to cut into something I had spent so much time putting together. But I did it, trying to cut a straight line 10 inches long for the plate to sit into.
The plate has to be carefully pegged into place. I finally hit a snag here when one of the pegs came out the side of the gunwale. It broke the stem plate and a piece out of the gunwale. At first I was really upset, as I was running out of scraps of cedar that were deep enough to fill the area that I had cut out for the stem plates. But then I remembered how well I had done at pegging the deck beams into place. Many people had problems with that step when I didn't.

Here is a side view of the stern with everything in place. Next is to shape the plate to create a nice continuous line between all three pieces.

This is a view of the bow stem plate pegged into place.

Here is Danielle sewing a rim or flange onto her cockpit coaming. This will create a ledge for the sprayskirt to grab onto. The coamings have to be steamed and bent around a frame. Chuck is going to do this for all of us as we don't have a lot of coaming stock. Fine with me, since we only have one more day to work in the shop. I've been working on shaping my masik at home so I can peg it into place next weekend. I also shaped the chines, which run the length of the kayak between the keelson and the gunwales.

So what I have left to do is:

  • Place and lash the chines
  • Fit & peg the Masik
  • Need one more curved deck beam between masik and footrest
  • Deck stringers cut, pegged and shaped forward and aft of the cockpit
  • Seal the wood frame
  • Stretch the nylon
  • Sew it onto the kayak
  • Add cockpit coaming
  • Stain the skin
  • Seal the skin

Wow! That's alot to do yet. Wish me luck.


Maiden Voyage

Chuck, our fearless leader has his qajaq finished enough to give it a test run. So he shrink wrapped it and I met him at a boat launch on the Clinton River just outside of Mt. Clemens.

After we shooed away the geese looking for handouts I helped him into his boat. We both had drysuits on with too many layers on underneath. It was cold and starting to snow.

Chuck seemed to like his qajaq and it looked really nice. So he took a little spin in it and declared no changes needed to be made. How exciting for him.

So he'll take it back to the shop and skin it with nylon this week. We will all have to pay close attention as no one else's qajaq's will leave the shop with skin on.