Posts Tagged kayaking

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extreme skiing

extreme skiing

extreme picnicking

extreme picnicking

extreme kayaking

extreme kayaking

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extreme looking

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Unsung Athletic Achievements

I was away at a memorial service for a distant relative (by marriage) I only met once. Among the upbeat facts I learned are that Jim was incredibly fond of canoeing in Canada and driving and hanging out there in the outdoors with his wife who preferred kayaking. He went so often that he was practically viewed as a Canadian in heart and spirit. Unforgettably there was a 12-inch, green replica canoe on top of the box that contained his ashes…and we all sang the Canadian national anthem to the moving sounds of a live trumpet player.

So I thought during the service of this man’s unsung athleticism and involvement with sport. He had achievements that were not widely celebrated, though he was so skilled with his hands, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he built his full-scale canoes himself.

At the reception afterward, I met a friend of Jim’s who owned a DeTomaso Pantera that Jim helped set up between races. Jim knew a lot about engines, I heard. And there was a Volkswagon Beetle that Jim owned and restored and entered in local shows.

Most of us live modest lives that lead to no fame and riches. But we are often able to actively enjoy sport and athletics. Many simply from the couch…and others like Jim thrive in the outdoors. I heard often that he was a gentle and very knowledgeable man. I wish we had lived nearby, so we could have enjoyed knowing each other.

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You Won’t Believe Some Of These

I am almost speechless after watching this People Are Awesome 2013 video. There are athletic stunts and achievements here I have never even heard of, and many are clearly somewhat established “sports.” It also reminds me how nuts some people are to take these risks…like walking a tightrope between two moving trucks about to enter two different tunnels. Still can’t believe that is for real.

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Kayaking Pioneer Derek Hutchinson Made History Risking His Life

the first person to cross the North Sea in a kayak

Derek Hutchinson died October 10th. He is regarded as a pioneer of the sport of sea kayaking, and was often referred to as “…our Sea Daddy. He is also a supreme example of individuals who risk their lives in the pursuit of sporting activity and wanting to be the first to achieve certain amazing goals. No guts, no glory. Trailblazers like Derek are our heroes. Here is an excerpt from his obituary:

Mr. Hutchinson entered kayaking lore in August 1975 with a spectacular failure. He was leading five kayakers in one-person kayaks in an attempt to cross the capriciously perilous North Sea from England to Belgium, a distance of more than 100 miles, when things began to go wrong.

They found they had to paddle continuously to maintain control of the kayaks. They could not sleep, because unattended kayaks could easily flip and they could drown. But with only primitive navigation equipment and a rough sea, they ultimately had no idea where they were. They hallucinated, vomited and suffered hypothermia and dehydration.

gone at 79 after a spectacular and varied life

After 34 grueling hours in which they veered eight miles off course, a passing ferry spotted their last remaining signal flare and picked them up.

But redemption came the next June, when Mr. Hutchinson and two companions, Tom Catsky and Dave Hellywell, completed the crossing in 31 hours, setting a world record for distance traveled in a kayak. They succeeded by recognizing the surging, dangerous currents that had thwarted them the first time and tying up to a giant buoy until the tide changed.

The expedition proved the seaworthiness of kayaks Mr. Hutchinson had designed. “The North Sea crossing was a milestone,” Mr. Hutchinson said years later. “It took the kayak out of the toy-boat class and put it into the serious deep-sea craft category.”

…His gift for the colorful phrase was indisputable. “Hold your paddle like a fairy holds her wand, not how a witch holds her broomstick!” he exhorted his pupils.

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Lawyer Martin Dodd Rows Daily At Lunchtime

I took up rowing about 25 years ago at the age of 32. Although the crew team recruited me heavily in college (I guess I had the build for it), I ran track and swam. I ran seriously through law school and eventually started doing triathlons, but knee surgery and a pretty stupendous bike crash got me seeking a new sport. At the time I was living right on Long Island Sound and could drop a boat in the drink right off my front yard, which I used to tell people went “all the way to Portugal.”

Leslie at about age 50—2008

Leslie at about age 50—2008

My first boat was an Alden double that was kind of sluggish but beamy, stable and fun. While I always rowed it as a single, it would comfortably accommodate a passenger, and often I’d let my girl friend row me around. On a scale of one to ten, Leslie was at least a fourteen-and-a-half, and with her at the oars in a skimpy bikini, while I lounged in the stern with Heineken in hand, I soon became the envy of many a yachtsman as we plied the waters around the Thimble Islands. “What’s that guy in the funny little boat got that I don’t?” Leslie is an accomplished actress and playwright who still lives on the shoreline. We usually get together once or twice a year and go for a row.

I have since moved inland, and, while I get out into the salt as much as I can, I do most of my rowing now on the Farmington and Connecticut Rivers, as well as some lakes in Northwest Connecticut. Currently I have two rowing boats, an Alden Star and an Appledore Peapod.

Martin in his Appledore—1995

Martin in his Appledore—1995

Named after one of the Isles of the Shoals in Southern Maine, the Appledore is an old workboat design modified for sliding seat rowing. It’s 16 feet long, 33 inches wide, and was the proudest creation of Arthur Martin who basically invented the sport of recreational rowing with the introduction of the Alden Ocean Shell in 1971. The boat has a real sharp entry, a lot of bow flare and is relatively flat amidships. She can be rowed single or double, carry a passenger and a lot of gear (yes, for old time’s sake, Leslie still rows) and handle incredibly rough conditions. Somebody rowed one around Cape Horn once, and there have been times when it’s started to blow that I would have felt more secure in the Appledore than my 23 foot powerboat.

An Alden Star (not Martin or Martin's scull)

An Alden Star (not Martin or Martin's scull)


The Star at 22 feet long and 18 inches beam is also somewhat flat bottomed but does not pound. Its most unique feature is a squared-off reverse step transom that supplies some hydrodynamic characteristics of a longer boat, as well as lift to keep you from pooping in a following sea. (Ed: pooping is when the sea comes over the stern—rear—of a vessel) This boat is also truly amazing in big waves. It’s rugged, and I have dropped it a number of times and run it into all manner of stumps, logs, lobster pot buoys and other obstacles, all without damage, although I did need to patch the transom once (an easy job) after my ex-wife ran into it with her little blue Volkswagen.

I have a high pressure, sit-down job as general counsel of a large engineering company, but my office is about five minutes from a beautiful stretch of the Farmington River. I keep the Star on a rack on my pickup truck, and most days when there is no ice, I drop it in the river at lunch time and am gone for about an hour. I row downstream to an old dam, then turn around and row upstream back to where I started. Things that seemed like problems when I started are mere bagatelles when I finish. As Arthur Martin used to say, “my boat is too small to take my cares with me.” The other day as I was loading the boat back onto the truck, I asked myself how much extra money would I take to go back to the high-rise law firm world where I couldn’t do my noontime rows. The answer was: “no amount of money in the world!”

A lot of people work out at lunch here, Read the rest of this entry »

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