Sunday, July 13, 2014

Missing kayakers found after drifting in Green Bay for 15 Lucky!

A few days ago a woman and 2 nine year old children set out in rented kayaks...a single and a double to paddle to Horseshoe Island and back from the launch in Nicolet Bay, Peninsula State Park, Door County, WI.
Caught by building winds on the return, the were blown out into Green Bay.  The woman did all the right things...kept the boats together and I believe they stayed out of the water in the boats, otherwise I don't see how they would have lasted almost 15 hours.  They were extremely lucky.
This was a miraculous search, thanks the the excellent SARS team we have here in NE WI.

Sea Kayaking is a great sport, but as we all know should not be taken are a few of my thoughts.

Thoughts on staying safe while paddling
Summer is struggling to arrive.   My boats have been begging to be used and I have been taking them out since early June despite this chilly weather.
Friends ask about kayaking and what kind of boat, gear, etc. to get if they want to paddle.  They ask where I go…everywhere and anywhere is my answer.

Kayaking is so easy…anyone can get a boat, throw it in the water and paddle until their arms fall off.  It is much simpler than launching a small power boat and dealing with backing the trailer and messing with the gas.

A Sea Kayak is amazingly sea worthy.  A kayak with a well-designed hull and watertight compartments doesn’t care if it has a paddler or not…it will survive.  15 years ago, maybe 20, some dude was paddling with his buddies off the coast of Maine, for some reason he had to exit the boat; it blew away…far, far away.  Months later someone found it on the coast of France, a wallet still snug and dry inside the boat.  The person, who found it called the city police where the address was listed, concerned that someone may have died.  The police checked on the paddler who had been saved so many months before by his paddling buddies.  A sea kayak can easily take someone where they should not go…if they don’t have the skill and stamina to get back.  Have a realistic knowledge of your skills and ability.

Anyone can paddle without instruction…that is the danger of kayaking…it is too easy to jump in a boat and go.
Launch on a warm calm day and anyone can paddle until land is a distant horizon line away…problems arise with the weather…the wind really…when the wind arrives it changes everything…it creates waves, you get wet, it cools you off…what might have been a pleasant summer day is now a cold miserable day, even though the sun it still out…the water cools you off.
When white water kayaking, the hazards are obvious…rocks, tree branches, huge waves with swirling water wanting to suck you down,  but shore, at least in WI is not far away and if you get wet and cold, it is easy to pull out and take a rest while on a river.  You are far more likely to be physically injured by a rock or get some abrasion, than dying while running a rapid.   And you obviously can see that skill is needed to maneuver a boat around rocks and through waves when running a river. 

Sea Kayaking in the Great Lakes or on the ocean is another story.  Seldom do you ever hear a story of a Sea Kayaker being injured.  The stories are about death and near death…almost always from hypothermia after being lost at sea and losing the boat or being in the water and not being able to reenter.  Why?  Misjudgment, it boils down to misjudging your padding ability for the ever changing weather and sea conditions.  99.9 percent of the time a person in distress has paddled beyond their abilities; usually because they were not aware anything would or could happen.  Simple Misjudgment.

Sea Kayaking is easy, easy to launch, easy to paddle a long distance, easy to get in trouble.
Don’t do foolish things, like paddle across Lake Michigan, or out to an island, cross Deaths Door or go far away from shore,…tempting and easy things to do. Unless you have the skills to reenter the boat, warm clothes and know your physical abilities so you can paddle back as far as you came.  Can’t roll, self-rescue, re-enter a kayak on your own?  Stay close enough to shore to swim back in the cold water.   
If you fall out of the boat, can’t get back in, can’t get to shore, you are SOL.

Dress for immersion, if you are going away from shore, that will buy you time to lay around in the cold water, hoping and waiting to be saved when too tired to renter the boat.

Don’t do foolish things, like paddle around an island where over the southern horizon there is no land for 10,000 miles, or cross Lake Michigan, or paddle into a 25 mile an hour wind for 3 hours to reach shore or just paddle to Islands several miles offshore…don’t do foolish things like that…without the tested skills, stamina, clothing, awareness of the weather, and safety equipment.  I love my life as much as anyone and hope to Paddle On for many years, so I reassess skills as I age and hope I don’t over estimate what I can do.  It’s always a judgment thing, stay within your boundaries. 

Into the Void

On a foggy day I went to Whitefish Dunes and paddled out to sea until land was no longer in sight.  Risky?  Yes!!!...I minimized the risk.   I wore a dry suit, the light wind was blowing toward shore…so paddle back down wind and to shore I would go…I could hear the waves crashing on the beach, but the waves themselves were minimal.   I know I can reenter the boat if I wet exit, can roll and brace alright, had a compass, GPS, waterproof charged cell phone (and a good signal), radio, whistle, flares, all on the life jacket which I was wearing, so in the event of a wet exit and I didn’t hang on to the boat while exiting and it blew away, leaving me alone and getting cold, I still had the ability to contact someone…but my goal is always…never be in a position where I have to be rescued.   

If in doubt, stay on shore.  It doesn’t matter what you are doing, know your abilities, practice and don’t exceed those abilities unless you are in a safe environment where mistakes can be made and a price not paid.   

Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.

Oh yea, don’t paddle in the path of a fast moving boat…If it is bigger, faster and can run you over, stay out of the way.

Take some classes, go with friends who will share their skills, practice what you learn or stay near shore until you can safely paddle over and back.   
Just stay safe, don’t get your name in the paper and Long may you run, ah paddle!

 Kayaking along Cave Point County park

Saturday, March 15, 2014


For me spring is signaled by a series of events.  Canoecopia, in Madison WI.  This is the largest Paddlesport show in North America, sponsored by Rutabaga Paddlesports of Madison.  The Gaelic Storm concert at the Myer Theater in Green Bay (, and then Ice Breaking, which signals the start of the shipping season on the upper Great Lakes.

Canoecopia…there is never enough time to listen to the entire speaker series as well as going to the store.  I did run into several friends, Tim Pflieger who owns the DoorCountyAdventureCenter and Terrie Cooper who is the Land Program Director for the Door County Land Trust.  They gave a presentation about kayaking here in Door County.  I stopped by the OutwardBound booth to just say hi and shared my experience about going to Colorado OB in 1976 and how what I learned then, has been part of my life since…almost 40 years…really that long?…wowzaa! 

I walked over to the WoodenCanoeHeritageAssociation exhibit and admired the skill of a woodworker as he smoothed a paddle made from sassafras.  He was using a nice looking spoke shave with adjustment screws to fine tune the blade while holding it firmly…nice.. As I gave it a try it he told me he had found it in the Lee Valley Tools catalog.  It was a VERITAS® Flat Spokeshave-A2.  A pretty sweet tool.

Tuesday night I fell asleep to the humming of the diesel electric engine of the Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay, and the thumping prop wash of the Tug Jimmy L, as they broke ice, softening a path so the first ship could leave town.  

During lunch Wed, I could see the CG cutter, Mobile Bay, the CG Ice-Breaker Mackinaw with several Selvik tugs heading out into Green Bay.   
They were opening a path in preparation for the first ship of the winter fleet to leave town.

 Mobile Bay
Joseph L Block
By Wed afternoon the Joseph L Block was ready to go and outwardbound into the ICE. Probably heading up Green Bay toward Escanaba, Michigan to pick up a load of iron ore.
So after work, I ran over to Pottawatomie State Park. The shipping channel runs near shore there and I could get up close to the ships as they banged their way out through the ice.   
 Tug Jimmy L with Ice Shanty

 CG Cutter Mobile Bay

The Block was being lead by the Mobile Bay and the tug Jimmy L, 
who seems to always be in on the action. 

Watch Them Working the ICE

Tug Mary Page Hannah
 The Tugs Mary Page, Jimmy L and the J L Block
The tug Mary Page Hannah, Jimmy L, another unknown ship in the distance miles away in Green Bay. 
We have had a long cold winter with 55 days below zero and solid ice since Dec.  Today, March 12, it was still only 10 above. In many places the ice is well over 3 feet thick.  These boats will have a long, slow, slog breaking ice as they head north.
Now I wait for above freezing temps so my boat can break out!
 ...and the time.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The J C Williams Dory Shop in Nova Scotia, CANADA

A Dory back in the late 1800's was the boat that fed the world.
Thousands of fishermen working off a dory, handlining for Cod, which was then shipped worldwide.  They used the schooner as a base and went off into the rain, fog, snow, sitting in thier dory all day sometimes alone, sometimes with a partner hauling in cod until the dory was full, then row or sail back to the schooner and offload, clean the catch and do it again the next day...
No work, No fish, No pay.
Watch Captains Courageous 1937 starring Spencer Tracy for a good idea of what a dory-mans life was like.
The town and shop from our canoe.
I’ve been meaning to do this this video, for what…almost 3 years now.
I can’t believe how fast time goes…ya blink and years have gone by.
Daughter Maggie and I first visited this shop in 1998 during our first tour of Nova Scotia, we went back 6 times and I was there last in 2011…hope to go again in 2017.   

The shop is a must for anyone interested in wooden boats as they have been continuously producing dorys there since 1880.
They build Shelburne Dory’s using a “Dory Clip” which eliminated the need for grown frames.   Grown frames are basically the lower portion of a tree where the wood turns from the trunk to the root with a sharp bend…very strong as the grain then follows the turn from the bottom planking into the side planking.  The naturally grown knees or frames are time consuming to dig, as they are in the ground and not so plentiful.  A Dory clip will join two straight pieces of wood into a strong frame or knee without digging in the dirt or having to search for naturally curved wood.
Lucky for me that in 2011, Milford Buchanan and Bill Cox were there.  Milford is the resident dory maker and Bill who was 92 at the time, once owned the shop and many other nautical related buildings in Shelburne…Cox’s Chandlery, Cox’s shipyard.  I spent some time talking with both, about my years as a boat builder.  How back in Wisconsin I was lucky enough to have been a carpenter building 225’ wooden minesweepers. They didn't realize we were building large wooden ships in the center of the US.  (one ship I framed up…MCM Guardian, sank last year in the Philippines after being run aground by an irresponsible captain.)
 Hope this shop stays open for years to come and will be there when I return.

Lets go on tour.

The people of Nova Scotia are proud of their Maritime Heritage and that is reflected in the many museums, roadside markers and personal signs all across the Province.
 is a fanciful story about a Dory-man in a storm being saved by a Selkie

Saturday, February 1, 2014

From December 7, 2013.

December 7, 2013.  

There was a wild Northern wind blowing as the Selvik Tugs Susan, L., Jimmy L.  and the Cameron helped guide  the CSL Niagara down the bay, past Pottawatomie State Park.

Her bow covered with a beard of ice from breaking her way down Green Bay, the Canadian ship CSL Niagara, worked her way into Sturgeon Bay for some repair work in the Graving Dock at Bay Ship Building.

CSL Niagara is lined up for the graving Dock at Bay Ship.
Sandwiched between tugs Susan L (left) and Jimmy L (rt)
As time progressed the weather deteriorated into a snowy fog while the tugs split ice to move the 700+’ ship to it's position in the graving dock.
The Susan L Selvik keeping the Niagara's bow positioned

The Tug Jimmy L pulling her in.  Notice the KORT Nozzle around Niagara's prop?

The Jimmy L. up close

Arthur M Anderson frozen in ICE

Tugs from Selvik Marine Towing were positioning the ore carrier Arthur M Anderson on the evening of Jan 28th, getting her ready to be berthed early the next morning.   

She sat frozen in the ice overnight.

The Anderson was built in 1952 at American Ship Building Company, Lorain, OH to a length of 647'.  She was lengthen to 767' at Frasier Shipyards in Superior, WI in the spring of 1975.

On November 10, 1975 she was accompanying the Edmond Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 30’ following seas, when the Fitzgerald went down and was lost.
Every Boatnerd knows the Anderson as the last ship to communicate with the Fitzgerald on that fateful night.

In 2001 while in the Green Bay, WI turning basin…despite the assistance of the Great Lakes Marine Towing Tug Texas in fighting a strong East wind, the Anderson’s bow blew into a sheet pile bulkhead along the Fox River…no damage to the Anderson, but some $75,000 to the bulkhead.
Registered in Delaware, but stationed in Green Bay, WI

Rivets on a Texas bow ringed with weld to keep them tight

 The Tug Texas in Green Bay, WI

The Anderson winters here in Sturgeon Bay most every year.  She is still running on her 7,700 s.h.p. steam turbine, so when winter comes she makes for good photos as the steam wafts around in the cold air.

I watch her every winter and listen to the steam hiss from her and other steamers while they sit at Bay Ship waiting for spring.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Building and Rolling the Newfoundland Trap Skiff (+playlist)

I'm been busy this year playing outside and haven't spent much time on the PC posting.

The month of December was cold here in Door County so I manged to find some time to roll the Trap Skiff off its building form.

Using several pull jacks I lifted her off, moved her over and rolled her onto the floor.