Thursday, June 28, 2012

Map Reading & Navigation

Some of the most fun you'll have as a Pathfinder leader is taking the kids out to do a little navigation.  You can make it a game by posting flags or something the kids can collect at various places over a wilderness area.  Mark the locations of the flags on maps you give to the kids and each unit has to go out, follow the map, navigating with a compass and tracking their progress. First one back with all their flags wins.

You can also set up a compass course for each unit to follow. Buy a set of hole punches with various shaped heads.  You can get them shaped like stars, diamonds, clubs and hearts as well as standard round and square shapes.  Set the course by hanging a different hole punch from a waymark tree, post or other landscape feature.  The last group to run the course can pick the punches up for you.  Best time on the course wins.  Sending them out spaced every 15 minutes or so also makes doing supper easier because you can feed them by units as they straggle back to camp.

Another version of navigation games is the map quest. This one calls for strategic thinking.  Give everyone the same map and send them off to collect flags, find and identify waymarks and hurry back.  The groups collect points for each flag they collect and return to camp with, for finding landmarks and telling something about them that you wouldn't know unless you'd been there and for hurrying back.  The speed of completion earns the team bonus points, so efficiency is everything.  The game becomes a contest to collect the most points. The units have to make strategic decisions along the way.  They may have to decide to not go after one point in favor of a speedier finish or to skip a flag to get a couple of landmarks that together are worth more than the flag.  There's a little math involved in this version, it's fun math.

In the meantime, one of my favorite weblogs, "The Art of Manliness" has a piece on how to read a topographical map this month that's a good introduction to the manly art of map-reading.  Print this article up for your Master Guide's notebook and read it often to stay ahead of the kids. 

Don't have a Master Guide's notebook? 

Watch this blog and I'll do a post on the subject soon.

Tom King
(c) 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rolling Your Kayak

(c) 2006 Some rights reserved by JHo105
Canoeing and kayaking are my favorite sports. Nothing beats a quiet afternoon drifting downstream or playing about in the rapids in a kayak.  If you're a larger guy, like me, getting into and out of a kayak can be trickly. That's where it pays to know how to successfully perform an "Eskimo roll".

Supposedly the reason for learning an Eskimo roll originally was to gets the paddler back upright and dry quickly if you turned over in icy water. A good paddler can make it look easy, but it's not. The first time you do one, you'll likely wind up falling ignominiously out of the kayak and getting yourself a snootful of water. The whole point of knowing the roll maneuver is to keep you safely in the canoe and in control.

(c) 2006 Some rights reserved by JHo105
Rolling a kayak is not a sport for the arthritic or aquaphobic. Unless you are comfortable hanging upside down in the water while not panicking, amd having the paddling strength to lever the canoe upright with a paddle, you might want to work up to it. 

Here's how to perform the kayak roll safely. This is one of the best tutorial films on kayak rolls I've seen yet. The article accompanying the video will walk you through the process step by step.

A trick I learned for getting a beginner accustomed to the movement of the kayak roll is to learn to do it in a swamped canoe.

Swamped Canoe Rolls

Start out sitting in a swamped canoe.  With the canoe full of water, the boat rolls more easily. You can do this alone in a small canoe or with a partner.  Use a single bladed paddle.  It's less complicated. If you do it with a partner, it's easiest to start out facing each other in the canoe both paddling from the same side of the canoe. Once you've mastered the roll, then switch so you both face the same direction and can coordinate your efforts to roll the canoe. Here's the sequence:
  1. Lay the paddle alongside the gunwale opposite your paddling side with the blade forward on the side away toward the direction you are rolling.
  2. Duck your head over the side toward the paddle (the direction you are rolling toward). Lean forward and over the throat of your paddle. Let the canoe roll over upside down. Brace your knees against the sides of the canoe throughout the maneuver to keep from falling out as you turn upside.
  3. Lean forward with your head till it's directly under the boat and you are bent forward with the paddle blade forward.  Allow your hips to straighten.
  4. Now twist your body toward the forward momentum of the roll and sweep the paddle blade down toward the bottom of the lake at about a 45 degree angle toward the direction you are rolling. Sweep the blade down and backward for the push up stroke.  You are upside down, so when you extend the paddle for the stroke, you will feel like the bottom of the lake is "up". 
  5. As you push sweep the paddle blade "upward" (toward the bottom of the lake) and back toward the stern of the boat, twist your head toward the direction where you will roll up.
  6. As the boat rolls the (actually) downward and sweeping stroke of the paddle will continue to propel the canoe in the direction of the rolling motion. As your head clears the water, take a breath, push on up with the paddle blade and snap your hips to give the boat a final lift to roll it back upright.
  7. Let your body twist so that the boat continues rolling. As it gets close to upright, press hard down with the paddle blade and push your body up out of the water. Keeping your head low makes it easier to bring yourself upright again.
It's very much like the kayak roll, but the momentum of a canoe full of water and low center of gravity of the boat will make a swamped canoe roll easier to complete.  It may take you a few tries, but you'll get the hang of it.  Wear noseplugs or a dive mask till you get the idea firmly in your head. 

At Red Cross Aquatic school, my partner and I rolled our boat some 50 times consecutively till the instructor got bored and made us stop.  Then, when we tried it in the kayak, we learned the trick of the kayak roll in just a couple of tries. 

Knowing how to roll a kayak or canoe can save your fuzzy behind if you ever turn over in whitewater.  Tis a far far better thing to be inside the boat than outside it when tearing through a rock garden at speed. Even a half-swamped canoe can be brought back upright with the pry stroke used in the roll maneuver. The technique is well worth learning as a skill for keeping you inside your boat, even if you go over and inside the boat IS the safest place to be in rapids, rock gardens or rough water.

Also, familiarity with the technique can save you a wetting. The same pry technique that gets you out of the water at the end of a kayak roll, will also save you from turning over at all. 

The Save Yourself a Dunking Quarter Roll Pry Technique:
    (c) 2006 Some rights reserved by JHo105
  1. As you feel yourself going over, extend your blade face down with a double blade toward the side to which you are leaning. I've been known to do a pry with the back of a single blade paddle, pressing downward and had it work just find
  2. Straighten your outside arm (the one holding the paddle by the throat) to brace the pivot point of the blade.
  3. Push upward hard on the grip with the grip hand to apply downward pressure to the blade as you pull with the lower arm against the throat. A slight backward sweep will also move you forward and give you some stability as you come up. If you're doing a flat pry with the back of the blade, do the opposite. Press down on the throat and pull up on the grip. Practice both and you'll soon figure out which to use in an emergency.
  4. As the paddle braces the canoe or kayak and starts it back up, follow through by lowering your head quickly to reduce the center of gravity and aid the boat in coming back up.
  5. Snap your hips straight as the boat rolls up and as soon as your nose and navel are aligned, sit up and kill the momentum of the rollup. Take pressure off the blade instantly. If you press too hard, you can flip yourself the other way.

My favorite book on the subject is "Paddle Your Own Canoe" by Gary and Joanie McGuffin. The illustrations are great and everything is very clearly articulated.  It shows simple rolls and recoveries and virtually every other canoeing technique you could want to know. It's worth the price if you can get hold of it. Spend some time practicing before you take the kids out. Especially learn to do a roll if you use a kayak (and I highly recommend one for the group leader so you can move up and down the group when you take out several canoe-loads of kids).

Besides, if you can do a kayak roll, the kids in your youth group will be utterly impressed with the old man's mad kayaking skills!

Tom King

Photo credits
# 1-4: (c) 2006 Some rights reserved by JHo105
# 5: (c) 2006 Some rights reserved by Tom Wardill

Splicing a Loop in a Rope's End

Check out this post on Hubpages.  It shows you step by step with pictures how to splice a loop  in the end of a three-strand grass rope.  This little trick is all kind of handy for rope swings, towing things:  It's not that hard to do once you get the hang of it and it really makes you look cool and woodsman-like.

This splice is stronger than the rope itself.