Thursday, January 31, 2013

Master Guide Secrets: Getting Your Boats to the Beach

Unloading canoes safely requires close adult supervision.
(c) 2013 by Tom King

You've piled all the canoes on a rented trailer or tied them to the tops of Pathfinder leaders' cars and driven to the lake.  You've got a whole bunch of small Pathfinders or Adventurers with you and the parking lot is 200 yards from the water. Here's the problem.

You have all these excitable kids swirling around the parking lot and threatening to make a break for the woods or toward the lake.  If all the adults in the group wind up carrying canoes the 200 yards to the lake, kids are going to be lost in the forest or in danger of falling in the lake and drowning.

On the Trinity River with canoe class -1975
There are two ways you can control the kids.  You can yell at them and make them stand at attention in platoons in the parking lot until you've moved all the canoes down to the lake.  This is not the best way to start a happy day at the lake.  The other way is you can tie them all up and stack them in the grass till you're done.  This tends to make parents quite unhappy when they find out about it.  Seriously, though, there's a third way to handle transporting canoes to the beach safely and without losing kids in the forest.

Step 1: Assign two adults to each boat and assign the kids by unit to each boat.  Two grownups and maybe 8 to 10 kids can handle a boat and if you let the kids help, you can keep track of them. Park the kids out on the grass or an open spot by unit.

Step 2:  Remove the boats from the trailers or cartops and set them out on the grass, evenly spaced.  If the kids are small it's better not to have them underfoot while you are unloading the boats. Have the kids waiting at the spot where you set the unloaded canoe.  There will be more canoes than there are groups if you plan to load two to three kids per canoe. 

Step 3:  Collect the gear for each canoe.  Have one adult or older Pathfinder in charge of the canoeing gear like life jackets, canoe paddles, coolers and canteens.  Send kids from your group back to the cars two at a time to pick up gear for the boat.

Step 4:  Tie the gear in the canoe, then turn it upside down.  You canoe should have a painter (rope) attached to either end that can be used to tie paddles and jackets under the seats and thwarts.

3 person overhead carry: Note stronger adult in center.
Homemade beach cart for carrying canoes.
Step 5:  Turn the boat over and pick it up.  Have the kids surround the upside down canoe and reach under the gunwales and prepare to lift.  Put the largest members of your group at either end to spot the boat.  Have the kids lift at once.  If the distance is short, just carry the boat at waist level.  If the water is some distance away, lift the boat to your shoulders and carry it. Make sure that no child is carrying a critical load. Use this rule of thumb: If the boat will fall if any one kid stumbles and drops his part of the boat, don't carry the boat that way.  In the 3-man carry to the left, if the kids stumble or drop their end, the boat is still balanced by the experienced adult.  If you are with an older group or small kids, this handy canoe cart made from PVC allows you to carry a canoe comfortably by yourself if the path is fairly level.  They are fairly easy and inexpensive to make, can be made to disassemble and allow a smaller or older person to move a canoe or kayak without hurting themselves.  The kids can walk beside the boat to stabilize it (and that way you know where they are). 

Step 6:  Set the boats down along the shore rightside up and ready to launch.  Have the kids place the life-jackets, paddles and coolers in place.  Be sure and tie down any loose objects like coolers.  Coil the painters (end rope) and put the out of the way in the bow and stern of the canoe where they can be easily reached. Make sure every canoe has a sponge to use as a bailer to keep the boat dry.

A quiet cove is a great place to practice paddling & safety.
  • Don't let the kids walk in the boats when they are on land.  It tends to crack the ribs and loosen rivets in aluminum canoes, causing them to leak.  
  • Do some basic training before you turn the kids loose in canoes. Teach the kids basic safety principles and paddling techniques BEFORE taking them out on the water. The Pathfinder Canoeing Honor suggests a course of study.  Find a Red Cross or American Canoeing Association certified instructor if you can find one.
  • Do NOT take inexperienced canoers out in moving water of any sort (surf or rivers). Spend a lot of time learning how to control and balance the boats in still water before you take a group out on any waters.
  • When traveling in a group, always place an experienced paddler in the front and back of the group to lead and to pick up stragglers.  There will always be one canoe you wind up having to tow, so have plenty of rope in the last canoe for hooking onto worn out and inefficient boats.
  • Learn to paddle well yourself. Poor paddlers work themselves far too hard.  If you know your strokes, you will be far less tired than the kids are by the end of the trip and better able to bring in the group.

This article only covers getting the boats to the water.  For more information about canoeing here are some helpful links:

  1. Handy pickup bed canoe rack
  2. Homemade canoe trailer
  3. Backyard or lakeside canoe storage rack 
  4. How to carry a canoe on top of your car
  5. Carrying a canoe on your car's luggage rack
  6. Canoe safety
  7. Supervising youth canoe outings
  8. Garage ceiling canoe hoist

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Feeding the Five Thousand (or the Fifty)

The Haystack - The Perfect Dish for Feeding Massive Numbers of Young People

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Hawaiian Haystack
If you find yourself with a visiting academy choir, a traveling youth group, starving Pathfinders on a Saturday night or any group of hungry people, here's an alternative to loaves and fishes - The Haystack!

This delightful Adventist invented and promulgated potluck standard is supposed to have been invented by a Seventh-day Adventist named Ella May Hartlein sometime back in the early 1950s.  Apparently her family had a craving for Tostadas and could not find a Mexican restaurant close to their home.  Ella May got creative with a bag of Fritos and some salad fixin's and the rest is, as they say, history.  

This imminently practical potluck dish swept Adventist church potlucks like wildfire and soon every state in the union had their own version of the dish.  Adventist missionaries carried the idea overseas and there are now versions of the ubiquitous and versatile vegetarian dish found all over the world.

I have personally delivered the secret of haystacks to the Lutherans (prodigious potluckers themselves) and apparently the Amish and Mennonites have their own versions of haystacks too. It still amazes me that so many people have no idea what a haystack is and have never tasted one.  It's very sad that so many should be so deprived.

Haystacks start out with a bed of Fritos.  Unless you are in Texas, and then it's usually tortilla chips, unless you are in Asia and then it starts out on a bed of rice. There are other versions elsewhere, but you get the idea.  Some sort of carbohydrate forms the base.  Beans are almost universally the next layer, though vege-burger or some other protein substance comes next.  Pisco-vegetarians have been known to sprinkle fish over rice or tortilla chips for protein.

Next comes the salad ingredients which are as varied as are salads themselves.  Lettuce and tomato are pretty standard.  In Hawaii, haystacks tend to include some bits of pineapple and other tropical goodies. I've seen northern versions made with baked beans whereas in Texas we tend to use Ranch Style pinto beans. I've seen them with chow mein noodles, nuts, any number of salad dressings and toppings and salad veggies.

In any case, haystacks are easy to prepare.  They are flexible for feeding large groups because you can set out the ingredients and leave unopened bags and bottles and jars of fixin's in the kitchen and add a bit at a time to keep up with the demand of a hungry potluck crowd without wasting food.  Unopened stuff can go into storage till the next time a horde of ravenous teenagers descends on your church.  

Also, the ingredients aren't very expensive so you can feed a lot of people, stuff them full of food and the serving line goes pretty quickly.  If you've got a group coming and don't know what to feed them, think haystacks.  Kids never get tired of it and no matter what age they are, they can create a haystack that only has stuff they like on it (unless their mother is standing behind them in line and then they'll probably have to eat some vegetables). 

If you'd like an ingredient list or instructions for making the standard haystack try my Howdyadewit weblog for Texas Style Haystacks or join the Haystacks group on Facebook for ideas and opinions.  Apparently there's a group and a Fan Page on Facebook for Haystacks - they're that popular. We've had knock down drag out fights over there about whether tortilla chips or Fritos are the proper base for a haystack.  Some people get downright religious about their haystacks, I'm telling you.

The truth is, you can be totally creative with it.  That's why God gave us free will.  If for nothing else, it got us some pretty tasty (and wildly creative) haystack recipes.

I'm just sayin'