Sunday, May 22, 2005

Listen to the Eagle Radio Show

Ernest Herndon and I will visit the Listen to the Eagle radio studio with Eddie McCalip tomorrow night (Monday, May 22) to talk about our books and about paddling in general. Listen to the Eagle is a live, call-in radio talk show hosted by Paul Ott and broadcast over most of Mississippi through several affiliate stations.

The show usually ranges over a wide variety of topics, mostly hunting and fishing, depending on the callers. Ernest and I may only have a few minutes on the air or a lot more time, depending on how things go. Last year Paul Ott followed our Pascagoula River trip closely and we called in to the show a couple times from the river with our cell phones. Many of the callers as well as the host himself are not all that familiar with the capabilities of kayaks and canoes, and regarded our downstream river trip as some kind of feat. I'm not sure how they'll react to the concept of paddling off to the Caribbean alone in a sea kayak! I think 2 or 3 copies of my new book On Island Time, will be given away on the air to callers, and probably one of Ernest's books as well.

Eddie McCalip, who does a lot of the interviewing as well as camera work for the television version of the show is an avid paddler and his enthusiasm for rivers has helped bring attention to our Pascagoula trip and subsequent book.

Here is a link to the Listen to the Eagle website for more information:

Affiliate stations and broadcast frequencies are listed there, as well as a link for listening live online. The show last from 6 to 8 p.m. CDT, Monday, but I don't know for sure at what time during that slot we will be on the air.

Sea Kayaking is big business in Florida

Back when I paddled south along the Gulf coast of Florida on the sea kayak journey that eventually took me to the Caribbean, seeing other sea kayakers was a rare event. Today kayakers are everywhere. Well, maybe not so many traveling in touring kayaks, but at least there are a lot of day paddlers out there, especially on sit-on-top models and other recreational boats.

I spoke to some paddling clubs shortly after returning from my trip, both in north Florida and in Mississippi and Louisiana. All of these at the time consisted of mixed groups of kayakers and canoeists. Now there are plenty of dedicated sea kayaking clubs scattered throughout the Deep South and especially in Florida.

After sending out press releases to some of these about my new book: On Island Time: Kayaking the Caribbean, I've been invited to speak to some of these paddling enthusiasts, like the Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers, who I will visit in July. Tampa is really where I began the journey after my false start in Mississippi, so this should be an interesting place to start talking to other paddlers. I plan to focus my discussion on solo paddling, since this seems to be a fascinating subject for most kayakers, even if they have no plans to ever paddle alone themselves. The folks at Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo have invited me to come down and sign books at a weekend kayaking event they host in February. That should be a fine time to spend a few days in the Keys. I'll take my trusty old Necky Tesla (the same boat in which I did the trip) and plan to paddle somewhere and camp a few nights while I'm there. It would be cool to revisit some of the hidden campsites where I stayed on the original trip.

In the meantime I'll be working to stir up more interest in the book and in solo sea kayaking in general, and plan to meet with and speak to a lot more paddling groups anywhere there is an interest.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Only Sea Kayak in the Wooden Boat Show

My Pygmy Boats Arctic Tern was the only sea kayak on display in the Gulf Coast Wooden Boat Show this past weekend. Last year there was a gorgeous woodstrip sea kayak as well as a couple of woodstrip canoes. It always amazes me how little interest there is in paddle sports on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Although there are certainly more kayakers now than there were back in the mid-1980s when I began paddling there, sea kayaking just hasn't caught on in a big way like it has in other areas. This is surprising, because as I point out in my book Exploring Coastal Mississippi, this area, in my opinion, offers the best sea kayaking to be found on the Gulf of Mexico, due to the distance our barrier islands are from the mainland, as well as the number of them and the availability of good campsites.

There were a few small sailboats in the show, as well as a good variety of larger wooden yachts, both power and sail. Quite a few folks showed up and took home copies of On Island Time as well as Exploring Coastal Mississippi. If I can find the time to do the work to get it up to show condition, I might take my Wharram Hitia 17 catamaran to the show next year. Like all boats, it needs constant work and is due for a paint job as well as some minor cosmetic epoxy work.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Gulf Coast Wooden Boat Show: May 14-15

The annual Gulf Coast Wooden Boat Show will be held the weekend after next, May 14-15 at Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi. The show opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday until 6 p.m., and again from 10 a.m. Sunday until 5 p.m.

Larger wooden boats on display at the show will be docked at A-pier in the marina, which is all the way to the east end. Small trailerable boats, canoes and kayaks, and vendor booths will be set up on the grounds north of A-pier and behind the J.L. Scott Aquarium.

I'll be there signing books: Exploring Coastal Mississippi, Astray of the Herd, and On Island Time, and Michelle will be there at my booth selling some of her hand-crafted jewelry and sterling silver jewelry from Mexico. Capt. Charley (see previous post about Traditional Marlinspike Seamanship) will also have some of his ropework on display at our booth and will be taking orders for rope matts, Turks Head's, etc.

This is a good opportunity to come out and look at some beautiful boats, and maybe even buy one if you've got some extra bucks you need to get rid of.

Sitka was great!

I'm back from Sitka, Alaska now, and can report that the trip and the job went smooth and turned out better than expected. Sitka is a fascinating place, an isolated little fishing community of about 9,000 people located on the Pacific side of Banarof Island, which is largely a wilderness island defined by the jagged snowy peaks of the coast range and dense conifer forests inhabited by large populations of brown bears and Sitka deer.

While there I had as my accomodations the 90-foot motoryacht, Gloria, that I went there to work on. The yacht is docked right near the heart of downtown Sitka in a municipal harbor, with fantastic views of snow-capped mountians all around. The vast majority of boats in this and other harbors in Sitka are commercial fishing vessels. Practically all the boats there, from the smallest runabouts on up are set up to handle bad weather and especially rain, most having generous dodgers or pilothouses of some sort to provide shelter for the operator. Gloria, of course, being such a large yacht, offered lavish accomodations and a large, well-equipped pilothouse high up on the bridge where the captain has a commanding view of the decks and surrounding waters.

My work involved sanding about 300 square feet of teak decks in the main aft cockpit, on the swim platform, and the steps leading up to the bridgedeck, fly bridge, and crow's nest. All the seams in these 20 steps had to be reefed out and re-caulked, adding considerable time to the job that would not have been possible to complete in the time I had there if the owner had not helped me the last three days with the work. The decks were fairly weathered, requiring us to begin sanding with 36-grit discs on the Fein 8-inch sander, but by the time we took it through the progressively finer grits of 60, 100 and 150, they looked almost new again and the owner was pleased to see that the planking was still thick enough for at least a couple more such treatments.

Deck sanding is without doubt brutally hard work, due to being on your hands and knees all day and handling powerful vibrating sanders. But despite 8-9 hours of this everyday, I still found the energy to go hiking every evening after dinner. The good thing about Sitka being located at 57 degrees north is that at this time of year daylight lasts until after 9 p.m. I used the last two hours of light every day to explore a different trail.

More about the outdoor recreation opportunities around Sitka in an upcoming post after I write an article about the area for South Mississippi Outdoors and Recreation.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Traditional Marlinspike Seamanship

Here' s an article I wrote for the Sun Herald's South Mississippi Outdoors and Recreation magazine about one of my neighbors at Point Cadet Marina.

Captain Charley: A lifetime working with ropes

“With old sailors it was, and is, a matter of pride to be able to make knots, the more difficult and obscure the better.” Page 323, The Ashley Book of Knots

Captain Charley Strickland, Ret., is a seaman, and by his estimation, being called by that term is the highest honor anyone could bestow upon him. He was born in a tarpaper shack in Hardin County, Texas in 1938, and like his father and grandfather and most of the men in his family, soon found his way to sea. His first job was aboard a tug working the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas, and that’s where he began his apprenticeship as a seaman.

From day one on board his first vessel, Charley learned the importance of rope. “Rope is literally the ‘lifeline’ of every vessel and is the most essential equipment on board” Charley says. His first job on board the tug was to make the rope fenders necessary to bring the boat alongside another vessel or a dock without damage, and to this day he prefers these “seaman-like” fenders to the inflatable plastic ones most modern boaters buy from discount stores. He learned to make the massive bow and stern pieces called “bow pudding” and “stern pudding and learned to make the traditional “monkey’s fist” knot in the end of a heaving line that enables one to throw it to another crew member on a dock or other vessel even in high winds. He learned to tie bowlines and clove hitches and make eye splices, end splices and short splices for joining two pieces of rope. In addition to these everyday knots in constant use aboard a working vessel, he learned to tie the more elaborate and obscure endless knots called “Turks heads” and to make plaited mats of rope.

Captain Charley’s career on working boats included holding practically every position on board a vessel at one time or another. He has worked as a cook, chief engineer, able-bodied seaman, mate and master. As a captain, he worked all over the southern Gulf of Mexico, operating for years out of such ports as Ciudad del Carmen, Dos Bocas, and Tampico. Although he left the sea for awhile to work on high steel as a master rigger on a construction job, his love of boats soon overcame the appeal of higher pay and he found his way back to his beloved Gulf. Captain Charley believes that seaman are made, not born, and that most men that have it in their blood would work for free if that’s the only way they could go to sea. He admits that being a seaman can be a lonely life, and that it’s hard to be a family man and spend a life at sea. He’s been married several times, but now lives with his dog, Hobo, on a small sailboat that he hopes to soon trade for a larger one that will be a more comfortable home. He also plans to voyage back to the Mexican coast he knows so well when he acquires and properly equips his new boat.

To Captain Charley it’s an atrocity to see a boat improperly tied up and to see so many modern sailors who have little regard for their boats or for taking care of the lines on board them and learning to tie proper knots. He says he looks at a boat the way a younger man looks at a woman, and that he’s never seen an ugly boat. “If anybody thinks it’s ugly, let it pull alongside when he’s sinking…” he says.

Captain Charley is adamant that anyone who goes to sea should know how to tie a variety of traditional knots and should have a splicing fid on board to make splices. He’s happy to teach anyone who shows the slightest interest in seamanship. There’s nothing he would rather do with is his time than teach his craft, especially to youngsters, as he believes these skills are a dying art.

Captain Charley can be found most any day at Slip D-39 in Point Cadet Marina. He may soon trade up to that larger boat, but you’ll know which one is his by the rope mats on deck and the monkey’s fist knots hanging from the boom. Anyone who is interested in learning more about traditional marlinspike seamanship can talk to Captain Charley at the Gulf Coast Wooden Boat Show on May 14-15. He’ll be there displaying a variety of rope mats, decorative knots, and even his version of knot art in the form of rope sculptures.