Friday, May 28, 2010

National Life Jacket Day

May 20th last week was Red Cross National Lifejacket Day. I didn't hear anything about this occasion until late that night. Coincidentally, on the same day there was an unfortunate accident on Echo Lake in south eastern Saskatchewan. A group of school students was out on the lake when two of the canoes capsized due to sudden winds. One of the students that ended up in the cold water was not wearing a life jacket or PFD and apparently needed to be resuscitated by the RCMP. Thankfully, everyone was eventually OK though 4 students were treated at hospital for hypothermia (they were in the water for an hour).

So, with that event calling to attention the importance of PFDs, I received a phone call from CBC television the following morning, asking to talk to me about life jackets. I am the "Publicity Director" for the Saskatoon Canoe Club and I guess based on that they figured I was the guy to talk to. Coincidentally, I was home with nothing better to do than to build a deck (my daughter was in daycare for the day). After discussing the issue of paddlers and life jackets on the phone for a few minutes, they asked if I would be willing to do an on-camera interview. I agreed and 90 minutes later I was down at the boathouse.

The reporter and cameraman chatted for a bit, asking general questions about the SCC, it's policies, and it's equipment. The cameraman recorded a ton of video throughout, then they did a 3 or 4 minute interview. The questions were pretty straight-forward, and I answered as best as I could. One question threw me off a bit though - they asked if there was a story I could share relating to when I was thankful to be wearing a PFD. Of course, there are several things I could have mentioned (wiping out in Farside with Rob, wiping out in Corner Rapids with Rob photographing, wiping out with Rob....), but the only thing I could think of immediately was some lame story about the first time I went down Otter Rapids - I was so excited to be running the rapids that I had completely forgotten to zip up & buckle my life jacket. At the end of the interview she asked if there was anything else I would like to add. Of course, I couldn't think of a single thing to say.

It was only later while I was out for a paddle on the river that a whole host of ideas came to mind. I should have talked about proper PFD care (keep it out of sunlight, treat it with a protectant such as 303, clean it, dry it, check for damage, check it's buoyancy, check for breakdown of the fabric, and replace it when it's old), getting proper paddling skills, having the right equipment on board, wearing the right clothing, dressing for immersion, being aware of the weather and your surroundings, and not over-estimating one's skills. They were still at the boathouse filming extra footage so I stopped back in and talked to the reporter about my concerns. They were willing to re-shoot the interview, but advised me that they thought what they had was good enough, that it was PFD's specifically they were most interested in, and that the segment was going to be severely edited anyway.

So, I got back into the kayak and continued my paddle. The cameraman was in the area shooting for about an hour, shooting film inside the boathouse of the equipment, taking close-ups of the PFDs, shooting film of me paddling off into the high winds and chop on the river, etc.

When I later saw the video, I was rather surprised to have seen my interview cut down to that one lame story. You can find the video at Early in the piece are several kayakers shown out on the water without PFDs. One of them is Jimmy. It looks like he might even be teaching some lessons, something I would hope he would have better sense than to be doing without a PFD, especially on such a windy day on the river (perhaps that footage was shot some other time).

The news video also shows a fellow who talks about mandatory wearing of PFDs, something that has been coming up recently. I certainly hope the lawmakers in Canada do not decide to go that route. Although I am a strong advocate of proper PFD use, I believe people should be able to use their own judgement based on the conditions in which they are paddling. Perhaps it should be mandatory for school groups or situations involving groups of kids, but there are situations where I do not feel it necessary to have mine on at all times (calm waters, warm water, no kids on board, etc.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exploding Beer, Part II

The following was written a couple of years ago, but never finished and so never published.

I had my second exploding beer experience this evening and for the second time I have coated the exposed floor joists above a furnace room with yeast-laden beer. This evening's experience, thankfully, wasn't near the mess or volume (in both senses of the word) as last time.

A few years ago I decided to brew a nice strong beer well in advance of Christmas, a "fallen angel trippel" (trippel=knock you on your ass) from Paddockwood Brewing. This "christmas beer" was flavoured with lots of tasty chunks of orange peel and numerous spices. Since a trippel is a big strong beer finishing out at over 10% alcohol, a helluva pile of strong healthy yeast is required so that they are so busy they can rip through all that candy sugar-supplemented malt and race to the finish before they even notice that they fermented themselves into a toxic concoction of their own waste byproducts (ironically, ethanol, that lovely waste product of fermentation, is toxic to yeast). In order to get so many yeast just rarin' to go, I started with a sort of mini batch of beer (ie a starter). Once that was growing nicely, I then tossed those billions of happily churning and very active fungi into the larger 5 gallon batch of my christmas beer, slapped the airlock on and forgot about it for a few hours. At some point in the day I checked on the beer and was amazed to see how quickly this batch of beer took off (I know that was my goal, but it was truly amazing to see) with a nice bit of foam (krausen) accumulating on the surface, the beer churning violently within from the yeast activity, and the airlock nicely bubbling away. Happy that things were proceeding so well, I returned upstairs for lunch. I think I was enjoying a nice rye bread sandwich when I heard it. A giant "WOOP!" from the basement, followed by a steady "fwoosh". I flew down the stairs in time to see the last of about 3 gallons of beer foaming out the top of the carboy in a yeasty orange and spice flavoured geyser, with a judicious portion of the beer dripping from pretty much everything in the room. It seems that the krausen had risen to the airlock and began coming out of the airlock. The airlock had then become plugged with the chunks of orange peel that were in the wort, trapping the CO2 that was being produced by the rapidly fermenting yeast (CO2 and alcohol are the waste products of fermentation, the process by which yeast consumes sugars for energy in the absence of O2). Not only did that begin to build up pressure behind the airlock, but it also caused a good deal of the CO2 to go into solution (just as it does when carbonating the beer after bottling). That pressure just continued to build up in the carboy until it released with a dramatic explosion, perhaps a couple of hours after first becoming plugged. The pressure in the airspace of the carboy caused the initial loud noise I heard and shot the airlock and carboy to the ceiling, with a good measure of the krausen to boot. Immediately after the explosion and the release of the pressure, an awful lot of CO2 came suddenly out of solution. This then caused the subsequent geyser of wort shooting out of the carboy and the loss of gallons of precious Belgian beer. Not to mention more mess.

Other than losing about half of my batch of beer, and making a sticky mess of my basement storage room, the beer itself suffered no ill effects. It finished out at a respectably high alcohol content of over 10%, and tasted great after it had over a year to age. As I recall, it was a little rough the first Christmas, but mellowed a lot with lots of time and was excellent by it's second Christmas. Such a big beer with a high alcohol content is not something you want to drink "green", but rather is to be put away to the back of the storage room and forgotten about for a very long time.

This evening's explosion was similar, but smaller in every way. I did not notice the noise, just the mess. The airlock and bung had gone missing, having ricocheted off into some dark corner of the furnace room. The beer was "smaller" (lower sugar content in the wort and thus lower alcohol in the end product), and the pressures involved must have been lower as not nearly so much beer was lost. However, there still was a mess on the floor joists in the ceiling above.

So, having learned my lesson twice now, I really should start using a nice big blowoff tube in my carboys!

My Daughter's a Winner at

I've been meaning to post for a few months now about a new website out there called As a father of a couple of young daughters, I'm interested in the Campgirlz website because I hope to get those daughters interested in an effort to counter the Barbie & Disney crap out there that they are exposed to. isn't just for kids though, it's targeted at female campers of all ages.

Back in April, had a photo contest. No particular criteria were imposed and my daughter & I went through our photos and picked one from last summer during our Kingsmere trip to submit (I let things get too close to the deadline and missed the opportunity to have my older daughter pick out a picture too). Well, lo & behold, she was picked as a winner! For her efforts, she won a bandanna and hat (both from Gander Mountain), a t-shirt and a pencil! She is sharing the t-shirt which was a bit large for her with her older sister.

You can find the announcement at

L. playing with her award-winning Polly Pockets on Kingsmere Lake.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How NOT to Pack a Kayak

We'll be heading to the West Coast this summer and that trip will have us paddling with others that will be in kayaks. Since there is no drinking water available where we are going, we'll have to bring our own fresh water (5 days x 6 people x 3L/day = 90L of H2O!). When we go to pack our canoe and the two kayaks we'll have to keep this little video in mind. Does this paddler look ready to take on the swell of the open Pacific Ocean to you?