Grand Marais Kayaking 2012

Here I sit, freshly returned from Grand Marais this year.  Josh and I headed up to do some paddling in the U.P. but we weren’t officially attending the Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Symposium. We did get to hang out with some people though, and as a result may be going up to instruct next year.

We left Thursday late morning and got there in the early evening. It was a bit late to paddle, so we drove down to Sable Falls to wander and shoot some pictures. It turns out, Doug was leading a trip up the West side of Grand Island on Thursday, so we could have joined up with that, had we gotten in Wednesday night.

Sable Falls
Sable Falls, with a stupid fallen birch tree
Sable Falls
The run-out of Sable Falls and the dunes next to it.

Friday, we joined up with Doug who was leading a trip from Whitefish Point to a couple shipwrecks and the shipwreck museum. This was a pretty leisurely trip. After some GPS mishaps, we were able to employ modern technology to download GPS apps on our phones and found one of the two, the Saturn. I sat right on the coordinates of the second wreck but saw nothing. The map said it was in 10 feet of water, but at the given coordinates, it was only about 3 feet deep.

Saturn shipwreck
One decent picture of a portion of the Saturn. Josh went swimming and dove down, so he may have some better ones.
Lighthouse at Whitefish Point
The lighthouse from the water to the north

Since we had driven about two hours to get to the paddle, we also took the time to stop at Tahquamenon Falls on the return trip. It wasn’t really part of the day’s plan, but we were basically there already. The lower falls are the smaller, and there are two sides. Without renting a boat, you can really only get close to the west side.

Miners Castle
Miners Castle from the overlook above. It used to have two turrets, but one collapsed a few years ago.

So, we weren’t officially symposium bound, but it was a fun trip just to go up and do some moderate paddles, hang out with fun people (some of whom were new acquaintances to Josh and me), and have a few beers at the Lake Superior Brewing Company.

As a side note, I see that it’s been more than year since I posted anything here. That’s hardly something we can call a blog. I’ll have to make an archery related post sometime since that’s been my winter spring obsession. I’m not really sure how to turn it into a story though – my hobbies are not necessarily interesting to those who are not me.

Lime Island Kayaking

I’m not sure of the exact date at the moment, but sometime in mid July, Todd and Linda had organized a kayaking trip to Lime Island in the UP / Canada. The plan was to get to the launch around 5:30 on Friday evening and head over to the Island where there were government cabins for camping. On Saturday, we’d paddle around the Island with a stop at St. Joseph Island in Ontario. On Sunday, paddle back and head home.

Janet and I drove up to get to the launch site in Raber, MI at 5:00 Friday afternoon. We got there a bit early – which is odd for us, so we decided to turn around to go back to some rumored general store that had coffee.

We never did find that stupid store… Instead, during a moment of brilliance trying to read a sign behind us, I managed to drive the Subaru into the worlds largest ditch, where it stayed for the next few hours.

We walked back down to the nearest establishment – a bar / restaurant on the corner and called the nearest towing service. While waiting, we got to meet the owner of the property on which my car was now located. She gave Janet a tour of the farm and offered us her four wheeler in case we needed to go anywhere.

The group headed off to the island around 7:00 – 7:30 after Todd helped move our kayaks over to the launch site just in case the Subaru wasn’t driveable. Ends up, the car was fine other than some scratches on the wheels and a bend safety ring on the trailer hitch from the wrecker. Janet and I headed over shortly after 8:00

We got there just a bit before dark, and I insisted on making a fire to cook, because I believe that cooking on a fire is essential for a camping trip.

On the island there are a set of government owned cabins in which we resided for the weekend. They were minimalist, but nice. I think I even have some pictures of them and the general “camping” landscape, but apparently I did not set them aside to be posted here.

Saturday, as planned, we circumnavigated Lime Island – with a little jaunt over to St. Joseph’s Island in Canada. While on St. Joseph’s we toured the remains of the fort there. Very importantly, they also had Reese’s PB ice cream sandwiches.

This was the most prominent remainder of the fort on St. Joseph's, but there was no explanation of what it was for since it was detached from everything else.

Toward the end of the day, most of the group wanted to head back to the cabins to make dinner. I took a small group out to the light house North of Lime Island – which is really a glorified mansion at this point.

This buoy marked the East side of the shipping channel. We paddled up this east side and crossed at the buoys.
The lighthouse itself - like I said, it's now a glorified mansion.

Sunday, we took a hike across the island in the morning, then headed back to the mainland. On the trip back, we got to see a Coast Guard ship in the channel.

Coast Guard
Todd with the Coast Guard in the background.
Kayak group crossing
The group on the return to the mainland
Janet testing the water temperature.

When we got back, we were “greeted” by the boarder patrol who breezed through to make sure we all looked American. Some of the group gathered at the restaurant/bar, but we opted to head back since it was about a five hour drive to Grand Rapids and another three to Chicago.

Subaru with kayaks
Packed up for the return trip - the side that didn't have mud packed wheels.

North Manitou Kayaking

Last weekend I had a chance to add a new island to the kayaking repertoire. Doug, Callum and I had been to South Manitou a few years back. This time, Todd and Linda were making a quick trip to the North island.

The trip was fist planned a week earlier, but weather wasn’t cooperating. On the second attempt, the weather appeared to be holding, so we headed up to the area on Friday night. Crashed at the farm in Empire, mainly to avoid having to pack up, paddle in the dark then pitch a camp somewhere along the point.

Saturday morning we got up kind of early to head out to the island. Stopped at DH Day, filed a float plan, got car passes and a back country permit. Stopped in Glen Arbor for breakfast and were unpacking at the beach when I had the brilliant idea to lock my keys in the car. Since there were no objections, I went ahead with the plan. That ended up causing about an hour delay in getting on the water.

Conveniently, I’m still within the three year / 36k mile window on the Subaru, so with that I get free roadside assistance. I called Subaru, Subaru found a tow service who they then contracted to come let me back into my car.


Morning drama aside, we got on the water in what was a beautifully clear day with maybe 10kt winds from the West / Northwest. We cruised three miles out to the point before turning to cross the channel. Finding the point is kind of battle between logic and instinct. Instinctively, every outcropping of land we went around seemed like it might be the proper departure from the mainland. Logically, you just have to keep paddling until the lighthouse and the island are squarely to your side. At that point, unless there is obvious land jutting out in front of you, you’re probably starting to turn and move away from the target.

Also, since I failed to mention, there is a lighthouse in the channel. Island & lighthouse – this was a two-for-one trip.

Mainland Shoreline

This is what much of the mainland shoreline looked like, with Linda for scale.

The crossing itself is about seven miles with the lighthouse roughly in the middle. For the most part, the waves stayed under 1ft. and the wind wasn’t anything to horrible.

Manitou Passage Lighthouse Manitou Passage Lighthouse

Perspective is a neat thing, but don’t let it fool you – those dunes are huge.

Manitou Passage Lighthouse

This is the closest clear shot I have of the lighthouse. It’s not really in the best condition, especially noting the poop covered solar panels on the second level.

Landing on North Manitou

After the initial landing on the island, we paddled up the West coast a ways. There was a very nice campsite up there (as Todd and Linda has speculated) but because of the winds and waves, the water near it was quite churned up. Too bad, because watching the sunset from a tent on a bluff would have been kinda cool. It would have also added three miles to Sunday’s return trip, so given the options, we headed back to the South end of the island.

Paddling Snake

It rained overnight and this guy took shelter under my kayak. And then I chased it down for a picture.

We didn’t waste much time in the morning, because the best weather was slated to be early on in the day. It was overcast and raining in places – we got to see South Manitou consumed by rainclouds while on our return trip. The weather held well enough, and we only got sprinkled on briefly.

Return Trip Clouds

These clouds looked more concerning than they really were – there was no lightning. I found it neat how you could see how they were sitting on a pocket of lower air.

Dune Trail

Back on the mainland – I think this was the tallest and it was definitely the steepest bluff we saw. Obviously some daring people have climbed it.

Sugarloaf Mountain

As we were getting back to the launch site I grabbed this picture of Sugarloaf. Too bad they’re no longer open for skiing.

17′ Dining Room

And, less than a week later, I have filled the existing space with crap.

WMCKA‘s having their winter pool sessions now. Josh and I went to the first one on Saturday and as a result I had gathered the kayaks. I had forgotten that on our last trip of the season up to Le Cheneaux I broke the strap securing the back band of my boat. I did some surgery on the kayak and it is now, dare I say, better than new. The problem stemmed from the metal anchors that held the nylon web strap in place. They were stamped aluminum, meaning that the edges were pretty sharp – sharp enough to slowly cut through the band. I took the rotary tool and rounded them out prior to replacing the straps.

Also this weekend, I finally figured out the laundry system at the apartment, so I did something like six loads of laundry which cleaned pretty much everything I own and wear on a regular basis.

That’s all for now… updates you don’t care about brought to you mainly because I liked the image of my kayak extending through the entire apartment.

Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Symposium ’08

I just returned from the GLSKS up in Grand Marais, MI.  It was a highly successful weekend, as judged by me.

Doug and Corrina headed up early Wednesday on Doug time – meaning they left about 1:00 in the afternoon.  I didn’t want to take the day off just for driving, so I headed up on Wednesday after work and after some fixin’ of the Jeep so she’d make the voyage in one piece.  As it turns out, I cannot drive for seven hours straight after very little sleep and leaving at 10:30 at night, so I stopped in St. Ignace to sleep for a while and arrived Thursday morning at 10.  Josh and Megan headed up later Thursday and got in around midnight.

The symposium doesn’t really start until Thursday night, so C, D and I went on a little coastal paddle out of the Grand Marais harbor and out to Sable Falls.  It was a nice little warm up (about 7 miles round trip).

Thursday evening there was a downpour at 8ish for about an hour.  Everyone either went back to hotels or watched Justine’s video in the rec center (although downpour on a tin roof makes for hearing difficulties).  Apparently nature got rid of its angstiness though, because that’s the last of the bad weather we saw for the weekend.

Friday is always the intermediate trips (with Saturday as the beginner trips – ie. once they have had a chance to take classes Friday).  Josh, Megan and I went on the 12 mile cruise out to Grand Island and into Trout Bay.  Doug and Corrina went on the 18 mile run along pictured rocks which we have done in the past.  The 12 mile trip was a nice change from the rush that the 18 miler always end up being, and a nice change of scenery as well.  We almost got a bit of weather, but alas, no fun came our way.

Saturday I took two classes, both of which took half a day.  The morning was boat control with Steve Scherrer, who is an IT, works for Confluence Water Sports and was the designer of the boat I paddle.  He’s a damn good instructor.  The afternoon was Rescue scenarios with Steve Bailey and Rob Taylor.  They’ve both been around since I started going to symposia and before.  The class was also good, shedding light on just how important knowing rescues and repair can be.

On Friday night Sam Crowley presented his solo circumnavigation of Ireland.  On Saturday night Justine Curvengen presented her (non-solo, alas she has a boyfriend) circumnavigation of the Southern Island of New Zeland.  Both were very cool, with some wonderful pictures (and video’s in Justine’s case).  It seems that whenever a circumnavigation is done it works such that there’s about 1/3 of the trip that takes 2/3 of the time due to conditions.  In both there were days when they made less than 10 miles on the water if they got out at all, but also days later when they’d make 50+ miles in a day.

Saturday night is the pastie dinner.  It’s put on by the local high school as a fund raiser for their senior trip.  This year there were five graduating seniors – it was a big class.  The dinner was good, and as an amazing bonus, Josh won a new Valley Aquanaut, which for anyone who cares, is a $3200 boat.  The white and yellow of the Aquanaut and the white and red of the Montauk (Megan’s boat) make his Civic look very nice :-P.

Sunday morning is random instruction time / boat demos.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a Tempest 170 Pro for me to try.  We did however confirm with Pat of Riverside Kayak Connection that Doug and I could get instructor pricing on them which is a damn good deal.  I tried a 165 Pro which was of course small for me, and also Josh’s new Aquanaut which was also small for me.

As a note to self – next year I really should be an instructor.  They seem to be smart with who they have lead classes, so it wouldn’t be too ridiculous.  Plus, it makes things free, such as registration, lunch, dinner, beer and possible fuel costs.

I headed out with Josh and Megan at about 1:00, C & D left later.  We went to see Sable Falls by road on the way out and also stopped at Truck Stop for pasties in St. Ignace.  We crossed the bridge just after 6:00 and I was back around 10:30… half an hour too late to get into the storage space and drop off the gear.

I spent most of the night waking up in intervals to do laundry and then this morning had to swing through Lowell to deposit gear.  That brings me to current – sitting in the Northwes Air club, writing this entry, and about to go board my flight to Taiwan.

Be back in a week.

East Race and the Chip

Josh’s wife was out of town at a food science competition for the weekend and I guess most of this week.  That meant that Josh had a burning desire to get out kayaking.  So we did.

Saturday Josh, Doug and I headed down to East Race for some man made whitewater goodness.  We didn’t get that early of a start, and thus got there around 2:30.  Put it at the top, stopped right after the release gate and frittered about a bit getting comfortable in the water then headed down.  We pulled off to the side just before the first big feature  (V-wave I think).  Doug and I were kind of giving Josh the rundown on what to expect since he had never been there before.  Doug nominated me to lead, and I didn’t feel like arguing, so I did.  Hit the wave, punched through, flipped, rolled and the goodness continued.  The downfall of East Race is the lack of good eddies to stop in, so I stopped about half way down the run just before the rodeo wave.  Doug came in after me – apparently his run through V-wave went pretty much exactly like mine – hit, punch, flip, roll.  We waited around for Josh wondering what he had gotten caught up in.  Come to find out, he got dumped leaving the eddy and swam through V-wave and the rest of the way down to us.  On the downside, he gouged his foot when he was pulled out.  On the up side, the girl who pulled him out was hot.  But alas, he’s married, so that was largely irrelevant.

Josh got back in his boat with a new appreciation of why you have to wear booties and we continued down.  No further incidents.

We ran the lower portion a second time and I scurried back up for a third.  To be honest, East Race is still a little big and featureful for my preferences.  It’s fun and good practice, but I’m not able to take advantage of most of the prime play spots.  Next time we go, I’m thinking it would be wise to show up an hour before opening (12:00) and do our practice then, prior to the big stuff.  The park closes at 5:00, but we stayed around at the end for a good while after that practicing in the small stuff that was still flowing.

Sunday we again packed up and went the other direction, leaving around 1:30 for Mount Pleasant to see how the Chippewa was doing.  As it turns out, it was doing quite well, running at 298cfs according to American Whitewater.  A little higher flow would have been nice, but it was very surfable at 298.  I suspect the last time I was there it was running between 450 and 500.  That was my first whitewater run and I got destroyed.  This time, the destruction was on back order.  Most of the day we stayed on the second wave, stopping there for at least an hour before even going to explore the remaining three.  As it turns out, the second was the best and we walked back up to stop there again.  So, all told, we ran the whitewater stretch of the river 1.4 times in about four hours.  That means we stayed on the second wave for at least three hours.  It wasn’t too big, but it was certainly fun.  We got to show off for lots of people either coming to the beach or floating through on tubes.

Toward the end of the day we did take some pictures, so some of those may make an appearance sometime soon if I remember.

It should be noted:  I drive a beat up old Jeep as anyone who knows me is aware, recently the roof rack busted and the replacement hasn’t yet arrived.  Doug drives a like new 2000 Jeep, but apparently isn’t bothering to keep it insured right now.  Josh drives a ’04  Civic.  Three people, two Jeeps and we take the Civic with three kayaks on top.  We were pushing the weight limit of that car and certainly giving the 1.7 liter engine a run for its money.  I was thinking about getting something along the lines of a Subaru when the Jeep kicks it, but this made me wonder if I would be better of with a plain car.  The down side being that I really would prefer to have all wheel or four wheel drive for Up Northin’.

I found out today that Megan’s group won their competition, so it was worth missing a few days of paddling.  I’m thinking she should buy a new paddle with the prize money – she might think otherwise.

Also, I have a whole slew of backdated post to publish.  Yeah, you’re not going to give a damn.


Last weekend was the annual Western Michigan Coastal Kayakers Association symposium.  It runs from Thursday evening through noon Sunday and is pretty much two full days of various classes, events, talks and socializing with other semi-local kayakers.  Since Doug and I started kayaking in ’05 it has kind of marked the start of the season.

This year ‘our’ group consisted of Doug, Josh, Megan and me.  The Dresslers were going to come (no one who reads this will know who they are anyway) but they were saving their vacation time for their Baranof Island Circumnavigation.  Yeah, I’m jealous of that.

Anyway, back to the symposium.  I’ve gone now for the last four years 05-08.  The first year, Doug and I had to learn everything we needed to know about kayaking so as to go on stupid missions without excessive endangerment.  The second year we were integrating Callum and Josh into the fun.  The third year we were taking what classes we needed to bone up for our IDW/ICE.  This year, I didn’t have a solid ‘goal’ for the weekend.  Doug was teaching, or at least assisting, and Josh and Megan still had useful classes to take.

Not to sound overconfident, but beyond my person practice and tweaking, I have taken most every class offered there.  I am certified to teach, but am not really comfortable doing so with such a large group.  In hindsight, I should have signed up to instruct but only as an assistant, not a lead.  I will say that taking a class from the guest instructors was good.  They were Leon and Shauna from Body Boat Blade in Washington.  It’s always interesting to see new methods of teaching beyond those that I was taught with.  I did claim instructorship for the one ‘private’ class taught by them for exactly that purpose.

I had to head out on Sunday night, so I didn’t get to participate in the putting it all together paddle that morning, which is always a fun time to practice skills with a group.  Overall, the weekend went well.  I will admit that it was overshadowed by other events in my life which should not be taken as an indication of the general enjoyment of the weekend.

Slippery Rock Creek

The weekend of June 10th and 11th, Jeff, Oren and I loaded into Oren’s Range Rover and headed down to Slippery Rock PA for some white water action.  We were joined there by Todd, Linda, Kathleen and Denis.

The weather upon arrival was a heavy rain, which was a joy to set up tents in.  It also meant that most of my travel clothes was damp.  Jeff borrowed a tent from Doug, which developed something of a standing puddle.  I did get some rain in my tent, but not enough to get me wet.  It did however make me appreciate a fast pitching tent and a sleeping pad, which kept me out of the little bit of water that did enter.

On Saturday, the rain had cleared and the weather was quite nice.  We put in at about 11 and ran the full length of Slippery Rock Creek.  Slippery Rock has three general sections, the upper which is a stretch of fairly active class 2 whitewater;  the mad mile – which is a mile long section of pretty much straight class 3; and the lower, which is a less active stretch of class 2.

The upper and lower were of course all fine and good.  The middle as usual for me ended up a little dicey.  I don’t know the names of all the rapids, but I know we made it through runway and airport just fine.  I got tangled up in triple-drop (similar to last year), and ended up swimming briefly.  Oren and Todd helped unpin then rescue my boat and I got back on the water.  I probably shouldn’t have… I was still far too tense for the swim to handle much and as a result, swam again almost immediately.  At that point, I called it good and hiked the little remaining distance to the end of that section.

Oren did loan me his camera and I got to take some nice pictures of the rest of the group.  I should also mention that Kathleen had a very nice – although unintentional – stunt at airport.  It’s basically a big wave in the middle of the river, and when she went to punch through, didn’t have enough speed and got sucked back in.  Her stern got pulled under, pu

That night was nicer – no rain.  We went into Slippery Rock for some food and beers.  Jeff elaborated a bit to me on the joys of flirting, a concept which is completely lost on me.

Sunday, we split into two groups.  The guys did the upper and mile again and Kathleen and Linda did the lower.  It complexified shuttling a bit, but otherwise was a solid plan.

Again, the upper was fine, but I got flipped at triple-drop.  This time, I have a better recollection of what led up to the events.  I started far too low exiting an eddy and thus was not set up for catching the next one in sequence.  I hit the very bottom of the eddy and got flipped.  Rolled, stayed up, but was getting driven into a mid-river rock.  When I hit that, I got dumped again, but I was pretty much bailing before getting all the way over.  With my position and the rock, an attempt at a roll would have simply left my boat pinned with me upside down underneath.  As it happened, the boat and I were momentarily pinned, but I was able to shove of and swim downstream.  Afterward Todd confirmed that my intuition was right and that would have been a very bad place to attempt rolling.

Todd encouraged me to get back in at that point, but given the events of the previous day and my knowing that I would take at least half an hour to unwind and be relaxed enough to paddle again, I opted to walk out the rest of the rapids.  The taking half an hour to get relaxed enough to paddle again concerns me some because it really has the potential to cause problems in a non-walkable situation and also in sea kayaking.  Of course, half an hour is only an estimate on my part.