First paddle of the season

It’s 80 degrees out, and so Rob and I snuck out from work at lunch time and went for a paddle. We didn’t go too far, just up past the weir. But it was lovely. The weir was in full flow, and we had an audience of people who were hiking down a trail in Ellison Park who stopped to watch. So we had to make it, and it was touch and go for a while there – Rob didn’t line up with the outflow at all, so when he hit the V it of course dragged him immediately across and he banged into one of the uprights on the weir. I lined up and paddled with short fast strokes and made it up, but almost buried one side of the cockpit when I did it. Rob watched what I did and copied it successfully.

My kayak was sitting on the floor of the garage all winter because one day in the fall I took it down to try to install a decal on it, and was too lazy to put it back up. Consequently there was a neat little row of bird seed along the foot peg rails when I lifted it onto the roof rack. And I can’t seem to get the backing paper off the decal without removing the vinyl, either.

Along the way, there were a lot of pairs of Canada Geese out, mostly with the female hidden down in the weeds and the male at the edge of the free-flowing water making threatening noises and gestures as we paddled by. At one point, there was a single goose in some flotsam with his whole head and neck down on the surface of the water. At first I thought he was dead, but he turned to watch me was I paddled past. I’ve never seen that before. There were also lots of turtles, and a couple of male redwing blackbirds. The water was clear and fast and VERY cold.

Lifting my kayak and Rob’s kayak on and off the roof racks, I started wondering what it would cost to trade up to a lighter kayak. There are things I love about my kayak, and a couple of things I don’t love, but the only thing I hate is that is weighs around 70 pounds. I was talking to one of the salesmen at Bay Creek, and he says they don’t make the Skerry in fibreglas any more except as a special order. But they have the ‘glas Pintail, which is pretty similar but a little lower volume. Since I’m unlikely to be camping in the kayak, that might do. Given the price difference between what I could reasonably expect to sell the Skerry for and this, it might be doable after a few more weeks of overtime. If I don’t die from the stress first.

For the record, what I love about my Skerray:

  • Handles beautifully. With the skeg up, I can spin it, with the skeg down I can track straight in a quartering breeze.
  • Fast and responsive. It rewards your effort.
  • The snug fitting cockpit gives you tons of control – the kayak feels like an extension of you.
  • Looks nice. The grey colour isn’t harsh or glaring.

Things that I don’t hate, but don’t love about my Skerray:

  • The cockpit. While it’s nice that my thighs go naturally into the thigh braces and the sides of the seat press into my hips to snug me in, it’s a right bitch getting into and out of the boat. I haven’t tried a wet exit yet, and I’m a little worried how hard it would be. They have two Pintails at Bay Creek, and one of them has a keyhole cockpit – if it means easier ingress and egress without giving up the snug feel, I’m all for that.
  • The skeg sometimes makes an sloshing sound as it hits the sides of the skeg box when I’m paddling hard with it down. It sounds like somebody sneaking up behind me until I realize what it is.
  • I don’t know if it’s the seat or the way I’m sitting, but my legs go numb after an hour in the boat. I read that some people put a rolled up towel under their knees to help that, but with the snugness of my cockpit I don’t want another impediment to getting out in a hurry. Somebody at Bay Creek today said to try rolling my butt forward a bit to take pressure off the sciatic nerve. I’ll try that next time.

It’s here!

My Garmin 296 is here. It’s very beautiful. There was a little bit of struggle to get the unlock code for the detail maps. I put it into auto mode and used it to get us to the restaurant for dinner. It was just like Kim and JK’s Street Pilot, which they demonstrated when we drove from New Jersey to Philadelphia for Maddy’s Memorial back in January 2004. The aviation mode looks pretty good too – I can’t wait to try it in the plane.

So far, nobody local has spoken up for my 195. So I guess it depends on whether I see Mark or Tina Marie first. (Unless Mark has changed his mind and doesn’t want it.)

The comment spam scourge

A while back I was revelling in the fact that the comment spammers appeared to still be targetting my blog through the old Moveable Type comment URLS (which don’t work) instead of the new WordPress comment URLs. Up until a few weeks ago, it seemed that I’d get a spate of 7 or 8 comment spams over a weekend, and then nothing for weeks or months at a time. But then they found me, and I’ve been cleaning stuff out of my SpamKarma 2 interface daily. But the volume is going up and up and up – last night I cleaned out all the spam before bed-time, and woke up this morning to find 217 new comment spams to clean up.

Because of this volume, I’ve activated the “auto cleanup” function on SpamKarma 2, and I will no longer be examing the comments that it flags as spam to see if they were mis-characterized. So if your comment got flagged as spam, and you failed the capcha check, I’m sorry, but it’s gone. I hate to take this step, but by the same token I haven’t seen any false positives in a while.

As seen on Lean Left

According to Lean Left » Drunken Lullabies, anybody who reads this is supposed to post an anti-war song on their own blog.

Recruiting Sargeant

Two recruiting sergeants came to the CLB,
for the sons of the merchants, to join the Blue Puttees
So all the hands enlisted, five hundred young men
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

They crossed the broad Atlantic in the brave Florizel,
And on the sands of Suvla, they entered into hell
And on those bloody beaches, the first of them fell

So it’s over the mountains, and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight in Flanders, and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Then the call came from London, for the last July drive
To the trenches with the regiment, prepare yourselves to die
The roll call next morning, just a handful survived.
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me


The stone men on Water Street still cry for the day
When the pride of the city went marching away
A thousand men slaughtered, to hear the King say
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Chorus x3

The Blue Puttees are the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, later given Royal assent as the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

The song refers to Suvla, which was part of the Gallolipoli battle, which the ANZACs seem to think was their own private hell, but they also shared it with the 1st Newfoundland and a few British Corps. The “last July drive” part is a reference to Beaumont-Hamel, one of the more atrocious parts of the atrocity that was the Battle of the Somme. 800+ members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment went over the top on the first day, and the next day 68 of them were still standing for roll call.

People laughed at the line in Braveheart where Longshanks refers to sending Irish troopers because they were cheaper than arrows. But there was at least a touch of that attitude still prevelent in the British Army officer corps in 1917. As my dad said a little while ago, if commanders tried that sort of thing today they’d be tried as war criminals by their own side.

Annual Club Ride

Our flying club requires you to do an “annual ride” every year with an instructor. Every other year, I combine that with a BFR, but on the odd years (like this one) nobody is really sure what we should do on these rides other than fly around and somehow assure the instructor that you still know what you’re doing.

I switch around to different instructors every time, so I get a chance to learn some different things. This year Jon offered to do it, because I’d offered to set up a mailing list for him and his fellow commercial pilots – he’s flying as a FO on a regional jet now. It’s nice to our relationship back friendly again, since I’d had a major blow-up at him a while back when he’d written to me disagreeing with an opinion I’d expressed in the newspaper, and he’d CC’ed every controller at our local airport. Just what I needed was hate mail from ATC. Plus he’d asked the club officers to forbid members and officers from identifying themselves as being members of the club without officer approval. But I got over it – he’d actually been right in some ways, although I still say the world isn’t going to end if they close the tower at Rochester in the wee hours of the night.

For some weird reason, I get a bit of performance anxiety on these things, even with instructors I’ve flown before. But I soon settled down as we did some steep turns, slow flight, stalls, reconfiguring between slow and fast, etc. Jon talks a lot, and it was a bit distracting at times, but that’s probably good practice as well.

But then I got a radio call I’ve never heard before.

Rochester Approach: 977 are you ready to copy a message?
Jon: Approach, 977. Go ahead.
RA: Your company 290 called to say that they're stranded in Batavia, and would like to be picked up.
Jon: Approach, we'll finish up our airwork then head on over. Thanks for passing that along.

And so that’s what we did – we did a bit more airwork, then went over to Batavia and picked them up. Evidently they couldn’t get 290 to start – the bendix wouldn’t engage. But what this means is the club is temporarily hosed – all of our fleet except the Lance is not flying.

  • 290 won’t start.
  • 05X just went in for its annual.
  • 39Z has a dead mag.
  • 23Y is getting a new engine, prop and GPS.

Boy I’m glad I’m a Lance pilot.