Getting Ready
........Spring 2010

May 30, 2010 — Paddling on LaDue with "ballast" Leslie and Jolly

This entry comes from Leslie:

Unlike Heike and Gale, I am not an avid kayaker. I really enjoy being on the water, but I don't care for all the work involved in paddling! However, I couldn't resist the chance to act as boat "ballast." All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride, while giving Heike a chance to assess the effect of my additional weight on how the boat handles (simulating what it will be like with supplies in the front compartment on the actual trip). I brought along my little dog, Jolly, a Shiba Inu who — because of his looks and his little round ears — has become the semi-official "polar bear" mascot of the trip.

Leslie and Jolly act as ballast for the boat. Total ballast weight was around 135 to 140 lb.

Although Jolly puts up with being in the boat, it is not his favorite activity. He was trembling and acting like he wanted to jump into the water and swim to land. However, I knew he would not do this because he does not like getting wet. Unfortunately for the poor little fellow, I had to keep pouring water on his head and back to try and keep him cool — it must have been at least 90 degrees F that day. Pay-back in full came when he shook his body from nose to tail and sprayed me all over! But the trip was fun, and needless to say, we got some interesting comments from other boaters regarding the dog as we glided by.

Jolly looks like he is contemplating jumping off the kayak and heading for shore!

May 13, 2010 — Sailing on LaDue

The first time I tried to sail my kayak, I landed in the bushes on shore and my mast got tangled up in the trees above. I did it pretty well downwind, but upwind, once I looked up, I saw myself heading to shore at incredible speed. That was on East Branch. The reservoir is too small to cross against the wind. So I asked my friend Marty to come and help me with his experience in sailing.
In my first trial, I had my leeboard attached upside down and not fastened so it was flopping up and down in the water and getting stuck in the bottom on shore. This time, when I arrived at the lake, I had forgotten to bring the lee board, period. This was not too much of a problem as long as the wind was low. But once the wind kicked up, I was in trouble going upwind; the boat was moving sideways with incredible speed. My “emergency brake” was pulling in the sail.

As long as I was sailing with 2/3 of my sail and the wind was relatively weak, I was ok. Here we are setting the sail to 2/3 of its size.

We are trying to “untangle” all the lines. Still have to learn.

It is important to have the sponsons fully inflated. After being in cold water for a while, the air contracts and the sponsons have to be inflated again. This is something to pay attention to, especially after inflating them with warm air from the lungs.

The ride is quite comfortable with the 2/3 set-up. The wind was low and I felt comfortable sailing upwind and downwind for several hours.

I still feel relaxed, but the line on top of the mast was a bit tangled and therefore the sail wasn’t really stretched to its full extent. This is something I have to learn to pay attention to.

I am taking off into the “sunset”

The wind was low, so Marty set the full sail.

It looks to me as if I need a larger rudder. Mine looks flimsy compared to all the other parts of the kayak.

After hitting the “emergency break” I was shaken, because I zoomed with incredible speed over the lake.

After I was pushed helplessly into shore (remember: NO LEEBOARD), we had to take the boat out on shore, disassemble the sail rig, so I could relatively comfortably paddle the boat back to our take-in.

It took a while until I had the boat fully under control. I had to paddle straight into the wind without having the rudder down. The boat wasn’t loaded well. It is 18 ft long. I am sitting in the back and therefore the bow sticks out and is caught by the wind and pushed around.

May 9, 2010 — Preparing the food

According to my estimates, I will need about 800 g of food per day. That is 56 kg altogether (about 120 lb). Partially dehydrating the 800 g will bring it down to 500 g — altogether, about 35 kg (80 lb).

a) Breakfast: 180 to 200 g muesli consisting of a mix of anything that I love to eat such as hardy oatmeal (Quaker original large oats uncooked) coconut flakes, almonds, pecans, and/or walnuts, plenty of different dried fruits, milk powder, and some soya protein powder (vanilla). I just have to add water, cold or warm, and can go for half a day or longer. I have tried that recipe and I love it and never get bored with it.

b) Lunch: I am still working on that one. It has to be something simple and fast. Maybe food that can even been eaten in the boat if we want to progress fast. I already have beef jerky, dried salami-like sausages, and crackers. Adding Wasa or some other bread and snacks such as dried tomatoes and dried fruit should do it.

c) Snacks: Meal bars such as Nature Valley. I like these and eat them very often as breakfast. I'll have more than a hundred with me.

d) Dinner: I am feverishly working on my dinners. I have a variety of items. Beside breakfast, dinner is most important. This is the meal that I have to put a lot of attention and work in. I have cooked goulash, spaghetti sauce with ground meat, marinated chicken and beef strips, and combine these with noodles or rice. For meal variety, I have also dry half-cooked potatoes.

All theses meal choices are dehydrated, weighed, and vacuum-packed. Dehydration reduces 250 g of food to about 1/3 of its weight. After packaging the food, I label it. I'll take Zip-Lock bags with me and pack the weekly dinner rations individually, so I can just pack my daily rations from that supply.
I bought about $200 worth of vitamins for Juergen and myself, almost all from Swanson, which gave us a $100 coupon. That helped a lot. We (especially I) will take supplements such as multi-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and more. Because our food was partially processed, we have to make sure we get enough vitamins and minerals to hang in.
Someone who wanted to make very delicious beef jerky bailed out :( I haven't tried-out the re-hydration yet. I hope that goes well :) I would hate to have to eat yucky food for two months!!! I hope my my method is an efficient way to process the food for our journey. Please feel to give me any advice, I would love to hear good ideas!!

May 8, 2010 — Leaning to shoot my Mossberg 500 Mariner

This was quite exciting! My Mossberg 500 Mariner shotgun has sat idle since I got it in November last year. Although I already had shooting lesson from my three "Shooting Stars" John, Matt, and John's brother (a just-retired policeman), I had to learn to shoot with my own gun.
These guys are superb! They took me "by my hand" and walked me step-by-step through the procedure. Shooting for Dummies: They covered loading, unloading, checking if loaded, how to get ready for a transport of the gun on my boat, how to deal with the gun when actually carrying it, and to shoot it. Also, how do deal with the gun when I hand it to someone, and what to do when someone hands it to me.
I test-shot bird shots first. The strength of the recoil shocked me. I thought we had used real slugs. No! Now I had to shoot the heavy bullets. It hurt; my wrists were smashed. Using different arm positions helped reduce that problem a little bit, but the gun has a powerful recoil and shooting it still hurt. We decided I'll buy a foldable stock, which can be swapped with the pistol grip, depending on whether I am transporting the gun on the boat or using it on land.
John's brother has a piece of land somewhere south of Cleveland, Ohio. We drove there because the land area is large enough that I could shoot without endangering anyone. The fun part came after shooting a box of birdshot and a box of slugs — shooting clay pigeons. I hit about one out of ten. This takes a lot of practice! :) I later shot a pistol and a Russian WWII gun. Both were fun, although I seem to lack the strength to hold up a heavy gun steadily for a longer period of time. We were out there for about three or four hours. Enough to learn a lot.

I listen to the invaluable advice of my "Shooting Stars."

Later John showed me how to clean and oil the gun. Although we shot at least 15 rounds or more, the inside of the gun looked very clean. The most important procedures are how to:

  • Check if the gun is loaded
  • Load the gun
  • Unload the gun if a bullet is in the gun ready to be shot
  • Unload the gun if bullets are in the chamber
  • Seecure it for carrying
  • Secure the gun for the transport on my boat, ready to shoot any time but not accidentally.
I need to buy a gun case that can be locked for airline transport. According to John and Matt, I should be able to transport munitions via airline to Svalbard? Sounds good to me. I have to call the airlines ASAP.

I practice shooting my Mossberg 500 Mariner while dressed in my kayaking raingear.

May 1, 2010 — Outfitting my kayak with a sail

Dave stands next to my new Balogh sail (partially reefed) on my Feathercraft Klondike kayak.

A great experience: We drove from Cleveland to N.Y.C. to visit Dave in the Bronx, where he had been working on my boat for a few days. I had left it with him three weeks ago at the N.J. Paddler Symposium in Somerset, N.J. My paddling partner Juergen in Germany told me I should buy the sail. Somehow I was reluctant. I am a paddler, not a sailor. So why should I get a sail? But the more I thought about the 1,500 miles we will have to paddle, the more I thought a sail would give me a chance to rest, maybe keep up, and even be able to return relatively fast if something doesn't work out. The thought of getting a sail started to intrigue me.
I looked at Balogh sails. They looked great! And the system is just unbelievable smart. David, the shop owner, just bought the company a few months ago. He is a dedicated sailor. He prefers racing, but our expedition excited him a lot. He reinforced all the metal pieces which are part of the mast and showed me where I might have to do repairs, what tools I would need, and how I can put pieces together. We will have a satellite phone with us on the expedition. Should I need to use it, David will have to walk me through using phone :)

The image shows the re-enforced T-area of the sail.

The sail is light and easy to install and to handle. One great feature — it is easy to reef and reduce the sail in size from the seat of my boat. Everything is simple and clear. I just don't have the "feel" for a sailboat yet. Maybe I'll get it? We will see!

This is how you tie the sail and give it the form it needs to be a "BATWING."

David and his wife invited my husband James and I to his house in the Hamptons, where we stayed overnight. They cooked for us. What a great couple!!! We originally wanted to set-up the boat one more time, install the sail, and work more on a board that could be put over the cockpit to attach my GPS and a compass. When we realized how far out we were on Long Island, and that the traffic between Hampton Bay and N.Y.C. was bad, we decided to leave as early as possible. It took us 9 1/2 hours to get back to Cleveland. Quite a drive!
Dave helped me a lot by going through different scenarios and giving me input how to respond. He reminded me of all the possible problems and what I need to take with me. He insists I should have my own Epirb. They are expensive!! But I might buy an extra one. Hopefully, I can find one for a good price. Last winter, there were some good ones on Ebay! But then I decided against buying one, because I'll be carrying the satellite phone.

April 16, 2010 — Visiting polar bears at the zoo

My two wonderful friends Gale and Leslie asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. "I want to go to the zoo to see the polar bears" was my answer. So we went. Cleveland has a relatively small, poorly designed zoo. Beside some gray wolfs, penguins, and seals, there is not too much to see on Arctic fauna. We had to make a long trip through the zoo, to finally find the Polar Bear exhibit.
I wanted to see polar bears up-close to see how large they are and prepare myself for a possible encounter. I don't want to be too shocked when seeing one in the wild. The Cleveland Zoo has only one polar bear. The poor guy was relatively thin; his skin was loosely hanging from his belly. I assume they don't feed him too much because the blubber would keep him too hot in our milder climate.
His area didn't look at all like an Arctic terrain. I felt sorry for the guy. He looked lonely. Okay, I understand polar bears are loners. But the poor guy was pacing up and down along the same path, over and over. His fur looked very yellowish. I heard that polar bears get a yellowish fur as they age. This makes them easier to spot among snow and ice flows because they don't totally blend in. I would have liked to talk to his keeper and ask what odors or sounds do polar bears hate? This would be a good way to keep them away. But maybe there is nothing a polar bear really hates. I just wouldn't like to have to kill one of them because they come too close to our tents. It would be better to just deter them.
The text in front of the bear's area says Spitsbergen is an area in which the bears are found, along with Iceland. Sorry Cleveland Zoo, polar bears do not live on Iceland!!! The bear's space was a few feet away from the seals — what a torture for the poor guy, not only is he trapped, the bear also has to smell his favorite food all day and can never hunt it! What a bummer for the guy. The zoo visit had an opposite effect on me than I expected: Instead of getting really scared, I felt very sorry for the polar bear.
Image of the polar bear

March 9, 2010 — Testing my expedition tent

Today I tried to set up my Hilleberg tent in our backyard. I used it last summer and made one mistake when setting it up. I got a tear in one of the sleeves for the tent poles. I had to send it to Hilleberg for repair. Problem was to get the inside tent attached to the fly, so I had to set up the fly first and then attach the inside next. It wasn't easy to do that because the snow is at least a foot high and I sank in with my knees which got cold and wet. Otherwise, everything worked out well. I need different stakes to get the lines straightened. I want to sleep in the tent one of these days. But during week I don't want to try it. In case I cannot sleep I better do that on a weekend. I want to see if my air mattress and my sleeping bag are holding up against the cold. It was relatively warm today, 56 F but it gets cold over night. I am curious which stakes are better for snow. Never thought about that. In Antarctica we used stones to force the skirts around the tents. I'll see if the soft snow makes the night sleep softer!

I tested-out my tent in my snowy backyard. It will help protect me as I sleep from the Arctic clime.