Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Damn Shame

This is a bloody shame and to me is wrong in so many ways.

CBC Sask: National parks cut cross-country ski trail workCuts mean end to ski trails at Prince Albert National Park and Riding Mountain National Park
"One of the services we've reduced or cut back on or ended for this year is the track setting for the ski trails," Alan Fehr, the park superintendent for Prince Albert National Park, told CBC News Tuesday. "And some of the backcountry camping services, we've cut those as well."
I love Prince Albert National Park in the winter. It's quiet and the ski and snowshoe trails are super. Snowmobiles are not allowed, so it is one of VERY FEW places in Saskatchewan where we can ski and be assured of not encountering a skidoo on the trail, or have a skidoo or quad wrecking the tracks.

What we SHOULD be doing, is encouraging more people to utilize the parks in the winter, not discourageing them. We are becoming fatter, lazier, and more out of touch with the real world and these cuts are a huge step backward. I am so disappointed.

This is a blow to those of us that enjoy the outdoors in winter without the noise and smell of an engine, it's a blow to society as a whole in terms of physical fitness, mental health, and connection to the natural world, and it's a blow to the business owners who benefit from having such fantastic skiiing (literally) on their doorstep.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weather: Frontal Analysis & More

Maybe it's the farm background, maybe it's biking to work each day, but I try to pay attention to the weather. I like trying to figure it out (though I usually can't), and I like looking at what's going on. Here's another tool in my quiver that I learned about this week from "nootka" on the West Coast Paddler forums.

You can find a variety of information at and it's pretty neat stuff.

This shows the fronts, where they are currently, and where they were for the past 12 hours.The image below should show the current fonts. (Or go to to see it on the Unisys website.)
Current frontal positions in North America. Image source comes from
Of course when you look at this it will all be different, but currently there is a giant cold front that has been sweeping across North America for a few days now. Yesterday, it brought very high winds to the prairies (it's still windy today, but not quite so bad) that blew my father and brother's crops away, very literally. It's amazing how quickly a good crop can go from good to nearly gone in a few hours.

Here's another map that shows the surface data: - by going to the link you can select your region, the type of map, & the information it shows.

Surface data with Canada selected as the region. Image comes from
There is a fair bit more at the website to explore and I've only just started poking around the website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paddling Stuff For Sale

Reduced Prices!
It's nearly the end of the paddling season and I have some of my gear to sell off. In particular, I have a few paddles and a spray skirt to sell. If you are interested in any of the below, give me a call at 306-370-3462, or leave a comment (I'll receive your comment via email quickly). Prices listed do not include shipping. If you are not local and want to get a quote on shipping, let me know where you are and we'll get a quote from FedEx and Canada Post.

 The paddles are Adventure Technology (AT) straight-shaft paddles. I have one with glass blades and 3 available with carbon fiber (graphite) blades. All of these paddles feature AT's "Synapse Ferrule" that allows the blade feather angle to be set in 15° increments from 0° to 60° (right or left) to find the perfect angle for you.

Quest Paddles (3) - 210 cm, 210 cm, 220 cm

The carbon fibre paddles are the "Quest" model and are new this summer (mid-season). I have 2 Quest paddles for sale that are 210 cm and one that is 220 cm. These paddles retail for $230 locally. I am asking $150 for the unused 210 cm paddle, and $125 for the slightly used 210 cm and 220 cm paddles, all are in excellent condition. These are excellent good quality paddles that won't break the bank. My own pictures of these Quest paddles are below, as well as a description and specs from the AT Paddles website.
The Quest Carbon features a lightweight carbon construction and Full Control Grip on the shaft. The unique blade design is ideal for low angle paddling but is versatile enough for varying conditions and paddling styles because of its soft dihedral blade. In addition, the blade features a uniquely high fiber-to-resin ratio making it one of the most durable blades available anywhere.
  • Weight: 29.5 oz/ 836 g
  • Shaft: Carbon Fiberglass Blend, Standard Diameter
  • Ferrule: Synapse Ferrule with SmartSet Technology
  • Blade: 623 sq cm; Low Angle Design; Carbon; Reflective Logo

Unused paddle, still with the original tag and rubber band that they came from the store with.

Synapse Ferrule is a spring loaded mechanism that allows the paddler to pull the joint apart and adjust the paddle feather in 15° increments. (I prefer 45° myself.) 

Odyssey Paddle (1) - 220 cm

 The glass paddle is the "Odyssey" model and is 220cm, was purchased at the start of last year and has seen 2 seasons of use in paddling lessons. It's in good condition. This paddle retails for $132 and I am asking for $70. This is a good paddle that is a great savings over the much more expensive graphite paddles. The length at 220 cm is good for the average to tall person, paddling a kayak that is narrow to moderate width kayak (up to about 25", wider than that and you probably should look for a longer paddle). Again, the graphic, description and specs are from the AT website, the photos are my own.
The Odyssey Glass features a fiberglass shaft construction in both Full Control Grip and straight shaft. Its slightly larger blade is designed for more power without adding flutter. A great choice for those seeking easier rolling, additional stability, and better grip in the water.
  • Weight: 38.0 oz/ 1077 g
  • Shaft: Fiberglass, Standard Diameter 
  • Ferrule: Synapse Ferrule with SmartSet Technology
  • Blade: 695 sq cm; Oversize Blade; Fiberglass

Assembled paddle with feather angle set to 45°.

Top blade on the right shows the power face of the blade while the bottom blade on the left shows the backside of the blade. 

I even have the original tag for this paddle!

Harmony Spray Skirt (1) - Large

I have a Harmony neoprene and nylon spray skirt for sale. This was my primary personal skirt last season before I upgraded to an all-neoprene (more watertight) skirt. It features nylon tunnel for comfort, and a deck perimeter made of neoprene to allow it to stretch and fit a variety of boats. It has two pockets in the deck, perfect for a few survival items (in case you wash up on shore without your boat), a small waterproof camera, or some snacks. Velcro at the waist allows you to adjust the skirt to fit your waist. This skirt retails for around $100 and I am asking $40. The condition is OK, there's definitely some wear and tear from rescue practice and use (see the photos).
Shown on a Swift Saranac with a 16.5 x 31" cockpit. This skirt also fits my WS Tempest 180 Pro with a 20" x 36" cockpit, though it's pretty tough to get on. I would suggest a cockpit of 35" or less is better for this skirt.

The joint at the back of the rand is starting to come loose. Repair with a stitching awl may be necessary.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Wildlife - For Jitka and Hanka

We recently held a large family reunion and were visited by distant relatives from the Czech Republic (Jitka & her daughter, Hanka). Afterwards, Jitka expressed disappointment that she did not encounter more wildlife while in Canada, expecting to see large animals in a more prominent fashion. Hanka even had to write a report about the plants and animals she saw in Canada, but had to leave out the animal portion. There must be a perception that if you come to Canada you will see wildlife roaming freely and abundantly when the reality is that encountering wildlife is an uncommon event that causes me to count myself lucky when it occurs. It is a special moment when I see a moose on a canoe trip.

Here is a list of some animals that are possible to see while paddling in this part of Canada (Saskatchewan). I've excluded birds, fish, rodents (except the biggest rodents) and other small critters from the list because the list would get far too long and complex. It is in approximately descending order with the animals I'm most likely to see at the top.

Moose swimming across the Montreal River. Photo by Rob Kunz.
  1. Beaver. I see beaver almost every time I paddle. Not only do I see them when paddling, we also hear the loud "kapuch" of their tail at night.
  2. Snowshoe Hare. Rabbit stew, anyone?
  3. Moose. The largest member of the deer family, I've seen these about 4 times now while paddling (twice in Prince Albert National Park, once on the Montreal River, once while paddling the South Saskatchewan River). In recent years moose have gotten much more common in the farming areas of southern Saskatchewan.
  4. Garter Snake. My kids have taken to searching the forest floor for garter snakes to catch.
  5. Fox.
  6. White Tailed Deer. Deer (white tail, then mule deer) would be at the top of the list except that this list has a paddling focus, and most of the northern places I paddle don't have many deer. The odds of seeing them when paddling the South Saskatchewan River are fairly high.
  7. River Otter. Otters are pretty cool to see. I've seen them in Prince Albert National Park and in 2010 we saw some on the Churchill River. In the winter I've seen their sliding tracks in the snow.
  8. Porcupine. Porcupine are all over, and in theory I should see lots of them, but I don't unless you count the dead ones on the side of the road. I know they are up in the trees and I often look for them, but only very rarely do I see them.
  9. Mink, Ermine, Weasel, Fisher. I'm lumping these members of the weasel family together, they are the smallest members of this list.
  10. Coyote. We often hear these at night, especially when paddling the South or North Saskatchewan Rivers.
  11. Raccoon. We have lots of them and I know they are around because I see their tracks in the mud, but I've never seen a raccoon on a paddling trip. I've seen hundreds of them dead at the side of the road.
  12. Woodchuck/Groundhog. We saw one in 2010 while canoeing on the Churchill River. My friend Mark claims they are quite common and he often sees them on the drive north. I never have.
  13. Black Bear. I've seen one once while paddling in BC, and many times driving. My most recdent bear encounter was a young animal that came to check out the messy smelly fish fry last month at the in-law's cabin at Candle Lake just as we were starting into supper. I chased it off making lots of noice and banging a 2x4 against the tree it scampered up into.
  14. Elk. What is it about elk and national parks? In Banff, Jasper and Waskesiu you will see them wandering the town streets. My odds of seeing them when paddling are not so high, but much better than some other animals.
  15. Lynx. I heard a lynx once while hiking, but have never seen one. The sound was very disturbing. More common than most people know, they are good at avoiding being seen.
  16. Wolf. Again, Prince Albert National Park is the likeliest place to see these elusive creatures, perhaps while on a snowshoe trip. The only wolf I have seen in the "wild" was walking down the middle of the road in PANP and was sick and perhaps starving.
  17. Cougar. There are more of these around than we would ever realise, they pass silently leaving little trace, and give a wide berth to humans.
  18. Buffalo. There are some places in Prince Albert National Park (and area) where it would be possible to see free-roaming wild buffalo (bison).
  19. Woodland Caribou. We have them, but the herds are small and during the paddling season tend to be farther north. They aren't coping well with human activities in the north.
  20. Badger. Wide ranging with large territories and rarely seen.
  21. Wolverine. Cousin to the badger and largest member of the weasel family. Wide ranging solitary animals with massive territories, these animals avoid humans and don't cope well with disturbances in their habitat.  
  22. Grizzly Bear. 120 years ago there were large herds of buffalo that roamed the prairies of USA and Canada, and many animals followed these herds. The Plains Grizzly was one of the animals that lived off of the buffalo and followed the massive herds. After settlers came the buffalo were hunted and removed from the prairies, and the animals that relied on those herds disappeared. The Grizzly Bears of the Alberta foothills are the last remnants of the Plains Grizzly population. It is still possible, but quite unlikely, to see Grizzly in the northernmost regions of our province, but it is likely a stray animal that wandered south from the Tundra rather than wandering east from the foothills. (On a related note, a Polar Bear was once seen swimming in the far northeast part of Saskatchewan. It was a young male that was starving.)
It is more common to see signs (tracks, scat) of these animals than it is to see the animals themselves. There are a few reasons why it is unlikely to see any of these animals very often. First, many of them are active at dawn and dusk, a time when it's hard to see wildlife and when we are not usually paddling. Most of our paddling is through areas of bush or forest which although it provides a home for the wildlife, it also provides them with ample cover, making seeing them very difficult as they don't stand around in the open. Also, hunting by local natives keeps the populations of the large game (i.e. moose) low in the regions that are close to native communities. Further, this is often a harsh country with a hard winter which means survival is often quite low. Many of these animals also require very large ranges - dozens to hundreds of square kilometers. The populations are not dense. Finally, the reason my family doesn't see as much wildlife as we might otherwise, relates to the fact that we have 2 young kids with us, and they aren't often quiet.

Finding signs of the animals is much easier than seeing the animals themselves. These are otter tracks on MacKay Lake in the snow on a very cold day. The otter runs a couple of steps, slides on it's belly, then pushes itself with it's hind feet while sliding on it's belly. 

The more common way to see moose lately, a recent photo by my father in the fields near the family farm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Adaptive Paddling

This summer I had the privilege of paddling with a fellow that is a c5-6 quadriplegic. It was a 2 hour parent + kid class and he was there along with his wife and daughter. I surely learned more that day from that family than they did for me. I look forward to continuing that learning for both of us and hope that we get to paddle together again.

He had a kayak that was adapted with a seat and outriggers much like the one that is shown in this video. In addition, he had special connectors that connected his hands (wrists, actually) to the paddle. He mentioned that the new connectors he was using were a great improvement over what he used to do, which was to duct tape his hands to the paddle.

The video, featuring a paraplegic paddler and his adapted cedar-strip kayak is very inspiring.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

From Kodiak to Homer Alaska by Kayak

Thanks to Philip.AK who posted on the forum a link to the stunning video he made from his recent paddle from Kodiak to Homer in Alaska this past July. It looks like it was a stunning trip, and he put together a brilliant video that I wanted to share with you here.

The video is 21.5 minutes long and worth every second. Watch it in HD and full screen if you can.

Sea Kayaking from Kodiak to Homer from Philip Tschersich on Vimeo.

For some reason I suddenly have a strong desire to head to south central Alaska to paddle!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The List

Like practically every other paddler out there, I have a bucket list of places or routes that I really want to paddle. I figured I'd start to write some of them down here. They are in no particular order and I'll add to it over time. Some are kayaking destinations, some more suited to canoe. This list could really be much longer, but it's a start.

  1. Circumnavigate Lac La Ronge (Sask). I blogged about the idea of kayaking the approximately 290 km of Lac LaRonge last year and it's likely to remain on the "to do list" for another year or two. 
  2. Clearwater River (Sask). Recently, there has been talk about mining the bitumen (tar) sands to the north of the Clearwater, a Canadian Heritage River, and we really should paddle this one while it's still pristine, and to show that there is value in pristine wilderness. 
  3. Broughton Archipelago (BC). A recent post on has my interest piqued to visit this area in the northern portion of Johnstone Strait, NE of Vancouver Island. (Update: Here's another report on the Broughton Archipelago that I enjoyed:
  4. Mackay Lake, Bartlett Lake (Sask). I was there a couple of years ago by snowshoe (see Mark's blog post). I'd like to go back by canoe. Not as grand as most other destinations in this list, but the chance of me getting there in the next year or so is rather a lot higher. 
  5. Coulonge River (Que). My Great Great Great Grandfather was George Bryson, Sr. who was a lumber baron in the Ottawa River Valley. He logged the Coulonge and built the timber slide past the Grand Chutes. 
  6. Haida Gwaii (BC). The Queen Charlotte Islands and Gwaii Hannas National Park is a place my wife and I would love to paddle. 
  7. Bonnet Plume &/or Peel Rivers (Yuk). The awesome mountain rivers of northern Yukon are places I'd like to see first hand. The Bonnet Plume River is part of the Canadian Heritage River System. (I have at least seen the Yukon River in person.)  
  8. Cree River (Sask). We were hours away from starting this trip when my Grandma died and we pulled out. So, it remains on the list and we are just as eager to paddle it. 
  9. Belize. A fellow I know has been spending his winters teaching kayaking in Belize. Seeing his pictures has caused me to have Belize on my list as a paddling destination. 
  10. Nahanni River (NWT).  Another Canadian Heritage River System river. The Nahanni has been on my list for as long as I've been dreaming about paddling. 
  11. Lower Sturgeon-Weir (Sask). In 2005 we paddled a section of the upper Sturgeon-Weir from the Hanson Lake Road to Amisk Lake at Denare Beach. We were on Amisk Lake a couple weeks ago (photos and report coming soon?) and visited the river where it leaves the lake in a C2 rapid that looks like a lot of fun. 
  12. Lake Superior (north shore) (Ont). Bill Mason's films have tempted me to that largest of lakes for 20 years or so. Reading reports by the likes of Bryan Hansel ( have only added to that desire. 
  13. South Saskatchewan River (Sask). We've paddled sections of it close to Saskatoon (as recently as last week), but I'd like to paddle the rest of the way to The Forks. Given how close it is to home and how often I paddle it, you'd think I'd write about it more, but here is one post from a night paddle in '02, snowshoeing on the river in '09, kayaking on the river this January, and again in March. On Sunday I'll be paddling a Lake Diefenbaker section of the river (or rather, what was the river before the building of the Gardiner Dam and creation of the lake). At the end of August I should be on the river again with my kids for a few days. 
  14. Newfoundland. Beautiful, scary, rugged, cold, awesome. I don't even know it well enough to say what part I most want to paddle or where to start. But the awe-inspiring coasts of Newfoundland definitely beckon. Lee's writing helps to fuel the awe. 
  15. Broken Group Islands (BC). We were there in 2010 and I want to go back, explore more and get to the outer islands more. 
  16. Kazan River (NWT). Another Canadian Heritage River System river. Back in the summer of 1992 I worked at a fishing camp near the headwaters of the Kazan (located on Obre Lake, we worked upriver to Snowbird Lake and downriver to Atzinging Lake). A group of European paddlers came through the fishing camp one day. I've wanted to go back to the Kazan by canoe ever since. 

One destination that made the list even though I already paddled it, the Broken Group. 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Cold Water Boot Camp

This evening I read the updated story about a paddler that died on April 1st in a lake in Washington state. In the article, one of the people interviewed mentioned a "Cold Water Boot Camp" video that they make their paddling students watch. A little googling brought me to Wow, what a great website. Watch the video contained in the download section (for me, it worked best to download a high quality version and watch it offline), it's a 10 minute program that delivers the message. There is also a 30 minute version on DVD which I am considering ordering.

The video program features Winnipeg professor, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, aka "Dr. Popsicle." Dr. Giesbrecht has been informing outdoors people like me on the dangers of cold water for quite a number of years. I've seen several of his videos on YouTube and even on the Rick Mercer Report (this video is hilarious). However, this is the first time I've seen his Cold Water Boot Camp program.

Be sure to also watch some of the individual videos under the Boot Campers section. They are very informative. There are a number of things I took away from those individual videos and interviews - for one thing, the messages coming directly from the individuals really hits home. Another thing I noticed, is just how much effort it takes the rescuers to get the swimmers out of the water. Watch as they pull the swimmers in and imagine how it would be for another boater (canoe, kayak, motorboat - take your pick) to assist you if you were in the water. And in this case it was trained rescuers pulling a swimmer up onto a very stable boat with a low, smooth rounded gunwale. Doing the same thing into a canoe, or a fishing boat - good luck. Also, when the swimmers are pulled from the water and interviewed on the boat, note how bloody cold they are, and how they actually get colder than they were in the water.

There are a couple of important take home messages that I'll be better incorporating into my own paddling lessons after watching this video, some of it I knew already and all of it has been reinforced:
  1. It's not hypothermia you need to worry about, it's cold shock, then incapacitation.
  2. You will never live long enough for hypothermia to be a concern without a life jacket or PFD on.
  3. It's ALWAYS cold water season in this part of the world.
  4. Swimming in cold water is very, very hard.
To summarise the effects of cold water and the time you have to deal with the situation, Geisbrecht coined the phrase "1-10-1"
1 - 10 - 1
1-10-1 is a simple way to remember the first three phases of cold water immersion and the approximate time each phase takes.
1 - Cold Shock. An initial deep and sudden Gasp followed by hyperventilation that can be as much as 600-1000% greater than normal breathing. You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. Cold Shock will pass in about 1 minute. During that time concentrate on avoiding panic and getting control of your breathing. Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep you afloat and breathing. 
10 - Cold Incapacitation. Over approximately the next 10 minutes you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs for any meaningful movement. Concentrate on self rescue initially, and if that isn’t possible, prepare to have a way to keep your airway clear to wait for rescue. Swim failure will occur within these critical minutes and if you are in the water without a lifejacket, drowning will likely occur. 
1 - HYPOTHERMIA. Even in ice water it could take approximately 1 hour before becoming unconscious due to hypothermia. If you understand the aspects of hypothermia, techniques of how to delay it, self rescue and calling for help, your chances of survival and rescue will be dramatically increased. 

For more on my own experimentation with cold water, see my post from last month.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Out Practising What I Preach

Last Saturday we had gorgeous weather for the last day of March. Sunny, calm and warm with a high of 14°C. It was a great day for a paddle and with the kids at the grandparents my wife & I donned our paddling gear and got out in the kayaks for a couple of hours on the South Saskatchewan River. The river is still mostly frozen, but through the city it is open and most of it is available to paddlers.

I mention that we donned our paddling gear and that is a large aspect of what I wanted to write about. We dressed not just for the weather conditions, but for the water conditions. We dressed for immersion.

I was wearing my dry suit (Barrier suit from Level 6) with long underwear (wool top, polypro bottoms) and a fleece vest underneath. On my hands I wore neoprene gloves (2mm), and on my head I wore a thin neoprene (1mm?) cap. On my feet I wore my new (used) Chota mukluks for the second time but the first time where I was in the water.

K wore a wetsuit with long underwear underneath, and a fleece sweater and softshell jacket over top. Although K declined to test her immersion gear, if she had ended up in the water she would absolutely have been cold, but likely would have been able to function well for a period of time. She had neoprene paddling gloves at hand, but chose not to wear them.

I'll add my observations and lessons learned at the end. In the meantime here are some pictures from the outing, and a couple of videos of me in action (and getting rather wet).

K paddling the cedarstrip guillemot I built for her (and documented in detail in this blog).

Heading south, away from the boathouse and downtown Saskatoon.

The west side of the river was clear of ice but a strip ranging from a few feet wide to half the width of the river was present on the east side. 
Some of the marathon paddlers from the Saskatoon Canoe Club were also out taking advantage of the fine weather. 

We saw their sterns mostly. 
They are building a new freeway bridge south of the city. 
The geese don't mind the ice. 

Heading back toward the boathouse. 
Paddling among the drifting ice.

With the neoprene cap on, I'm ready to practice my rolls and rescues. 

A video of one of my rolls in this ccccooooolllllddd water. I only did a few! (Note that at 5 seconds in my head is high, my head reaching away from the water. That is why I needed to finish the roll with a forward scull to get a little extra lift.)

A short segment of me practising my scramble rescue in conditions that were less ideal than the pool I had practised in a few weeks earlier. Things were much harder this time.

So, after getting into that cold water and practising, I can say I learned a few things (good, because that was the whole point).
  • Things are harder in cold water.
  • Things are harder when you are wearing a bunch of stuff.
  • Water that is at or just above freezing is really, really cold. (Shocking news, I know.)
  • The dry suit works well. I was mostly comfortable in the water except for those parts not inside the suit (hands and head). 
  • There was a cold spot at my lower back and that would quickly sap heat if you were in the water for a prolonged period. Perhaps my vest & long underwear top rode up?
    • A one-piece insulation suit (such as this or this) would prevent that from happening. 
  • 2mm neoprene gloves make it very difficult to grab deck lines even if they are not overly tight. The bulk of the neoprene made grabbing a 4mm rope from the smooth surface of the hull very difficult.
  • My fingertips quickly became numb when I was in the water.This made the dexterity issue mentioned above worse and it happened in only a couple of minutes. Had I been in the water for more than a few minutes, my hands would have been like using 2x4s.
  • The thin neoprene cap did not help much. Rather, it seemed to trap and hold the cold water against my skull and after rolling I had to loosen the strap to drain the water away. I think in a real world situation where the head is mostly out of the water (though with waves crashing over) it would be a net benefit.
  • Holy hell that water was cold.
  • The bulk of the suit and what I was wearing under it made the scramble rescue much more difficult. 
  • I need to calm down and slow down my roll. Also need to calm down and think about what I am doing for the rescues. This may have been the real reason my scramble rescue failed, it wasn't only the bulk of the suit. 
  • My new Chota Mukluks do not stay on when swimming. Anyone want to buy a pair of gently used paddling muks? I think they are a little large for me, which can't help. 
  • The filtrate discharged from the water treatment plant just upriver of the boathouse is a muck that looks like and has the consistency of baby sh!t. 
So, in conclusion I need to:
  • Keep practising.
  • Consider a different neoprene cap (like this or these).
  • Get pogies.
  • Calm down in the water.
  • Add beads to the deck lines to make them easier to grab. 
  • Sell the Chota Mukluks and go back to something that I'm sure will stay on when swimming.
  • Ask my wife to stop laughing at me on video.
The take home lesson of the day: Find a safe way to practice your rescues in less optimal conditions because that's where you'll need them. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sage in 50 Words

In order to keep track of my business expenses for Coldspring Paddling Instruction, last fall I started using Sage Simply Accounting. I am not an accountant, and using the software has proved to be anything but simple for me. Sage does have some basic tutorials online, but they only get you so far. They have lots of advanced courses on offer, but it's hundreds of dollars for those courses and the software, and my wife, tell me that I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on becoming my own accountant (rock and a hard place, I don't have hundreds of dollars to hire one either).

This week I received a newsletter from Sage. In it, they called for users to describe what the new name they are releasing for the software this year, Sage 50, means to them. Well, I was feeling a bit grumpy and felt I needed to respond. Here is that response.

My submission for Sage in 50 words:
The name Sage 50 means to me and my business that I am not nearly old enough to use or understand Sage 50. Or perhaps, that Sage 50 is only 50% value for my company, or that I’ll only make 50% use of it, or understand 50% of it.

Perhaps not quite what you were looking for, but it honestly reflects my impression of the new name. After spending last weekend working on my taxes and bookkeeping, I realize that Simply Accounting was not really designed for the home-based business that is too small to hire an accountant and where there is no background in accounting. Yes, it's more powerful, but at this point I'd prefer user friendliness. I'm a smart guy and I am not afraid to learn, but the training that Sage University offers is well out of my price range and I cannot consider it at this point (I cannot fork over hundreds of dollars of the money I'm not making this year to learn to keep better track of the money I'm losing as a start up). The free training included gave me a start, but really was too basic to be very much help. I should add that it's not [necessarily] the software that I need training in so much as accounting. Software I can figure out.

Bryan Sarauer

Think I'll win their contest? I'm not holding my breath.

On that note, I'm going to spend this morning going over the stuff I entered for 2011 and see how much was lost when I restored from a backup that wasn't as recent as it should have been (that was a computer failure, not a Sage software issue). 

Monday, February 06, 2012

Swim Drink Fish Music

Where have I been all this time? Although I've been vaguely aware of the Riverkeepers organization for some time, I just learned about this component of Riverkeepers called "The Swim Drink Fish Music Club."
The Swim Drink Fish Music Club is an online music and audio experience developed by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper in collaboration with other Waterkeeper organizations across Canada and the United States.

The Swim Drink Fish Music Club brings together artists, activists, and citizens just like you who care about clean water. By celebrating the Club's exclusive and rare music, you are contributing to the fight for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water in your community.
Check out the video with Gord Downie narrating. I love the Canadian waterscapes featured throughout. Also, at about 4:02 is the start of a shot showing Waskesiu beach (in Prince Albert National Park). I recognize the swing set & playground where I've spent time with my kids.

Artists + Waterkeepers = Swimmable, Drinkable, Fishable Future from SwimDrinkFishMusic on Vimeo.

The list of musicians involved is great and includes Elliott Brood, Great Lake Swimmers, Ohbijou, Dave Bidini, Gord Downie, The Sadies, The Gertrudes, Violet Archers, Sarah Harmer, Bruce Cockburn, Broken Social Scene, and even Pete Seeger, plus many more (I recognize the Canadian indie bands, but there are American bands and others).

As  Tim Vesely of the Violet Archers states in the intro to a song, "swim, drink, fish, music, that's four of my favourite things to do right there. How could I not want to get involved?"

While you are at it, check out North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper which works to protect the river that runs just 40km from my home.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Legend Passes On

One of Canada's most famous, most determined, and possibly most crazy, paddlers died of cancer this weekend. Don Starkell of Winnipeg was famous for several paddling achievements in his lifetime.  He was a marathon paddler at a time when racing canoes was a big deal and you could even make a living at it.  He paddled across Canada in 1967 as a member of Manitoba's team in the Centennial Canoe Pageant and features prominently in the book Journals of the New Voyageurs.  In 1980-82 he paddled with his son Dana (initially paddling with both sons in their custom-made canoe) from Winnipeg to the mouth of the Amazon, an incredible journey documented in his captivating book, Paddle to the Amazon.  A decade later he undertook another mammoth expedition, this time sea kayaking the Northwest Passage.  Again the journey was documented in his book Paddle to the Arctic, as well as in the book Kabloona in a Yellow Kayak written by the late Victoria Jason who joined him for much of the journey.

Each of the books mentioned are among the most interesting and captivating paddling-related books that I own.  If you read Paddle to the Arctic, you really need to read Jason's account (a rebuttal of sorts) as well.

Had I ever met Don in person, I am not sure that we would have gotten along.  However, despite his quirks and foibles (or more likely, because of them), it cannot be denied that Don was an amazing man.  His determination and ambition meant that he accomplished in his lifetime what very few would ever be able to undertake let alone complete.  He made the paddling world a more interesting and exciting place, and I thank him for allowing me to experience his adventures vicariously through his books.

Here is the link to the Winnipeg Free Press article about Don's death.

Edit: Here is a link to an article from Canoe & Kayak Magazine, it's a good one. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Paddling on a Un-Winter-Like Day

Mark & I went out for a paddle last Sunday, taking advantage of some weather that is very unusual for January. Mark posted some photos and you can find them here.

Since I rarely paddle in the winter, and since this type of prairie paddling is so different from what the folks on the West Coast experience, I decided to post an account of our paddle on You can find the post at the link here. Here is what I posted for those folks:

I was out for a paddle on Sunday on the South Saskatchewan River here in Saskatoon. My friend Mark ( & I, he in his solo canoe (which he built himself) and me in my kayak, launched from downstream of the weir and paddled downstream for a little more than 4 kilometers. The upstream and upwind paddle was much slower. We were on the water for a total of an hour and a half and during that time the temperature rose from about 0°C to +4° according to Environment Canada. Winds according to EC were from the wsw 22km/hr. It was a beautiful sunny day and extremely unusual for January being that it was so warm.
The river was mostly open with just some shore ice on the far shore and on sandbars, though the amount increased the farther we went from the weir. Likewise, the amount of floating ice increased the farther we were from the weir, though most of the pieces were quite small and of no consequence.
I was dressed for immersion wearing a drysuit with multiple insulating layers of long underwear and fleece. My feet had thick wool socks, the drysuit booties, and Chota mukluks. I was too warm in the body while paddling, but tolerably so. I had a neoprene cap on my head that I wore under a brimmed hat. That brim was very helpful to reduce the blinding of the low sun which at it's peak would only have reached 15.7° above the horizon. My neoprene paddling gloves were a tad cool and one finger on each hand quickly became cold so I think I should add some pogies to the system. The activity helped keep my hands from getting overly cold and they never got any colder than they were in that first few minutes.
Toward the end of the paddle with Mark close at hand I decided to try rolling, my first rolls in these conditions. I started by lowering myself into the water using the bow of his canoe. If I was going to have a cold shock response or have an unexpected reaction, I wanted to be able to pull myself up quickly. That went well and I committed to the full roll. With blocks of ice floating overhead, I didn't spend a lot of time hanging around under the boat relaxing (as I usually try to do). The rolls went very well, and the cold was tolerable. These might have been my fastest rolls ever (the buoyancy of the dry suit over the insulating layers no doubt helped). My head was certainly cold, but my upper body did not even feel the cold. Once up, my head quickly warmed. Three rolls seemed to be enough to prove the point that I could do it in these icy conditions and we finished our paddle shortly thereafter. I wish I had taken the opportunity to go for a swim. With help at hand it would have been a good opportunity to really test my system of dressing for cold water immersion.
Unfortunately, I left my camera in the car. Mark did take a few pictures so I'll post a link if he gets them up

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stuff That Works

I heard this Guy Clark song again this morning played by Glenn on CFCR.  It's a great song and I love the sentiment. (I've mentioned Guy Clark and his album Boats to Build before on this blog.)  The song appears on his recently released live album, Songs and Stories.

p.s. This is my 300th published post!