Friday, September 27, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How many craftsman posts is this?

Really nice short film about a metal worker with a lot of heart. If you have been reading here for a while you know how much I like films like this. This one is particularly touching.

PORTRAIT OF A METAL WORKER from Eliu Cornielle on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

All The Navigation

This weekend I taught another Map & Compass class to 8 wonderful guys of incredibly varied ages. M&C is probably my favorite non kayaking topic to teach. In conversation with one of the students - a student that I happen to know outside of the class - I realized I have done a bunch of nav related topics here, and I thought I should put them in one place.

The most recent of course is The Declination Cheat which was just a few weeks ago. Before that there was a post about Declination. This is the section where people generally make the mistake that gets them lost.

There is of course, plotting a bearing on a chart, which in a kayak is one of the most common nav exercises used. Doing a crossing? Your plotting a bearing. Following a coast? Plot a bearing. Measuring a distance? Plot a bearing, and measure it. Remember though if you are plotting a bearing on a chart and following it in the real world, you have to account for declination. Unless of course you use the declination cheat mentioned above.

I think the most important skill is Orienting your map to your surroundings. Get it oriented and keep it oriented, tracking the world around you, and seeing how it lines up with the world on your map is the best way to not get lost.

People always ask me at the end of class "what is a good book that has these skills" and invariably I tell them the NOLS Wilderness Navigation is the way to go. Another book you must read is Deep Survival: Who Lives Who Dies and Why. Awesome read about the psychology of survival.

Is there something you want me to cover that is related to navigation? Let me know!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Forward - Now Available on iTunes

I am pleased to announce that my latest - albeit short - book is now available on the iTunes store. Forward, is available as an iBook for iPads (and soon coming to all Apple computers). This book is similar in design to Enlightened Kayaking, in that it is a formatted as a lesson followed by a video. But as the title suggests the only topic covered is the forward stroke.

Why one topic? Simply put, it is the single most important thing we will do in a kayak, and the single thing that most people have trouble with. I wanted a small, simple, book to focus on this one important aspect. It is three lessons focusing on the forward stroke.

FORWARD is available now on iTunes - for free - just follow the link in the sidebar on the right.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dressing for fall Paddling

Well, it is that time of year again. The air starts to cool, the leaves start to change, and then fall. We start thinking of things like pumpkins and hot chocolate. We contemplate the last paddle of the year, and start to think about how we are going to spend the fall in the outdoors..... Wait. WHAT?

This is no time to put the kayak away. In fact I paddle more in the fall and winter than I do in the summer. The reasons are many. The water is empty and quiet. The trees look amazing. And most importantly - not really - your friends will think you are hardcore.

But if you are going to paddle in the fall and winter you need to do it safely, which means dressing for the environment. There is one big debate that rages back and forth about, and that debate is, do you dress for 'submersion' or not. Honestly, I think either one can work. If you are careful and take some precautions.

My first choice for winter paddling is a drysuit. I absolutely love my Kokatat GMER. I have used it for about 4 or 5 years now, and it has been sensational. But the price tag is a little high for most recreational paddlers ($1030 US at The gaskets at the neck and wrists are the best I have ever seen, they are silky soft and hold up well. That said, if you want to make fall and winter paddling - or you paddle someplace that always has cold water, like Alaska - then it is the premier choice. There is no safer, more comfortable way to paddle in a world of cold water and cold air.

Your next option down the chain in terms of price range is a combination of a dry top, and dry pants. If I were going to do it today, because I have good experience with Kokatat products I would go with The Rogue Top ($430 at and Tempest pants with socks ($180 at 

Yes, you are still a little over $600 for this pair, but they are offering you awesome protection. While I haven't used the Rogue top I am sure it has very similar silky gaskets and the same quality I have come to expect from Kokatat. I think the most important thing about the pants, are the socks which I should point out are connected to the leg of the pant the same way they are in the drysuits. This is super important, and was my main reason to move into a drysuit, as it allows you to launch your boat without getting your feet wet. Slip your regular paddling shoes or sandals over them, to protect them.

But maybe $600 is too much for you to spend on paddle specific clothing? What if I told you you probably already have clothing that works, that could be used in a kayaking environment? If you read this blog, you know that I stopped using a loved Patagonia Skanorak paddling jacket in favor of an REI eVent rain shell. You can absolutely use standard rain wear, with just a couple of precautions. They work beautifully on top of the water, but if for some reason you end up in the water unexpectedly, then you have a problem. Which means you need to be prepared once you get back into your kayak to fix this problem. When I am in this situation - and I was about 5 years ago - pre drysuit - I paddled to shore, changed into dry clothes and made a hot, sugary drink with a jet boil. You may want to be prepared to do this in the boat if you can. Which means dry clothes in a drybag, in the cockpit. This isn't ideal, but this can definitely be done. I did it for a long time before making the drysuit plunge. Just think through what it is you are going to do, if the worst happens. (Don't paddle alone, and tell people when you are going, and when you will return).

I want to talk quickly about feet, because they will definitely be in the water, and if you aren't doing pants or a drysuit with socks, think about something like this, or this. They will keep your feet warm and dry getting into and out of your boat. Which is key to a pleasant paddling day.

Speaking of warm and dry, all of these options I have discussed are essentially shell layers. You are going to have to find base layers underneath to keep you warm, particularly when you are in the water. I used the Patagonia capilene 4 (heavyweight) when I used a dry top and pant in Alaska, but I found that layer too warm for under a drysuit and switched to Cap 3 with a crew neck. A few years ago I switched again to REI powerdry, which works just as well, has a nicer hand feel, and costs less. It was a grey powerdry top that I wore for 21 days on the Inside Passage. I would also add that a big part of this is finding what works well for you, and adapting what you see other people doing. If you paddle in groups always look around at the paddlers around you I guarantee you will pick things up.

Having had the experience of doing a NOLS instructor course, a WMI instructor course and a couple of other similar courses, I think I have learned more from my fellow instructors, in just seeing how they do things. Learn from those around you. I have talked before about having 'a beginners mind' - which means simply you are open to learning new things. Continue to learn something new everyday. Particularly every day on the water!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Labor day

I had the opportunity to paddle on labor day weekend, with all of the paddlers who are taking part in the Alaska Glacier Awareness Project (AGAP), unfortunately not at the same time. Soon I will be introducing all  the paddlers who are taking part. Yes. They are all women, and my wife is fine with it.

This is Melanie (Mel) and she was super patient while I shot video for a project that is now completed but I still can't talk about it yet. Maybe Tuesday I can give you more information.

But here is Mel and myself towards the end of our paddle. This was the third or fourth time I shot something and when I was done, Mel slid in beside me. Here is the video that resulted.

LabordayAGAP from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

I think we should paddle this closely for the entire trip.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Long way round

The past month or so I have really been enjoying watching "Long Way Round" and its sequel "Long Way Down". If you're not familiar, here is the trailer.

Let me stress, that I am not a motorcycle - or as they call them in this series, motorbike - guy. Having worked on an ambulance I know how dangerous they can be. I won't debate that they are cool and fun, they are, but dangerous none the less. ( I should also point out I have a dear friend, and a wonderful brother-in-law who ride long distances on bikes and it makes me very scared!) But that said, this is a wonderful series about a ride around the world. I love it for a couple of reasons, and it bugs me for one reason.

The loves:

I just love that these two friends have adventures as wonderful as this. They are clearly very dear to each other, and I am excited to see how they support each other. I love that they give each other hugs a lot. It is wonderful to see. I also love that they are both actors, but clearly everyone has heard of Ewan, and I had never heard of Charley. Yet Charley is amazing, and it turns out made a career out of motorbikes after this. I love that. I love when anyone can make a passion a career. (I am trying, and I feel partially successful!)

I love Ewan (and Charley's) love of the different places that they get to go, the experiences that that get to have, and seeing them struggle with the difficulty. I love that they continually say things like "A vacation doesn't have to be a trip to the beach." I have had an idea for a post - or maybe a I would propose it to a magazine - about the will to have adventures. How many times people hear about the trips I do and say "I would love to do something like that!" I can't count. But the thing that keeps you from doing trips like that is you, and nothing else. It is having the mindset that you can do it, and you make it happen. I love that we get to see them eating at little divey restaurants in Mongolia. Where most people would be afraid to eat. They are living life, and having an amazing time.

Here is what bugs me:

As someone who plans, funds, and executes adventurous trips, it kills me how easy it is if your name is Ewan McGregor. Oh? Bikes from BMW? Sure. Tools from Snap on? Sure. Helmets, Cameras, a film crew? Sure. Sure. Sure. A little frustrating. That said, Ewan seems like a really likable guy who I would love to have a drink with. Charley too. When they drive through Alaska they actually go kayaking to see wild life in Prince William Sound, maybe their next trip will have them kayaking and they will need a fixer. I'm available.

Long Way Round, and its sequel Long Way Down are on Netflix instant watch.