Sunday, October 27, 2013

Watching the water, thanks to NOAA/GLERL

The view from the Harrison-Dever crib this morning.
We always check our favorite Lake Michigan meteorological observation station -- the thermometer, anemometer and webcam located atop Chicago's Harrison-Dever crib two-and-a-half nautical miles offshore. This NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory station, with its unimpeded view, is the best source of accurate wind data for the Chicago shoreline.

Sample data from the Harrison-Dever crib. 
We've never had much use for the webcam, however, which is too far above the water to provide any sense of wave height.

Until now. This morning, when we checked the site, we discovered a new feature: A six-hour time-lapse of webcam images, taken every 10 minutes. They still flatten out the waves, but you can see boats go by, watch the light change, and admire reflections on the skyscrapers in the background. It's really quite beautiful.

NOAA has added the same feature to other area webcams. You can now watch the waves at Muskegon, South Haven or Michigan City, or the clouds over Alpena. (Um, guys, can you adjust the camera angle?)

Seriously, we're fortunate to have this service. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory has been instrumental in researching algae blooms and invasive species, collecting and forecasting water levels, and providing coastal forecasts and satellite images, among other environmental research activities.

A portion of the Great Lakes Water Level Observations.

We rely on the data from the crib for an accurate sense of wind speed and direction. We also check it after we paddle to help us calibrate our internal anemometers. Thanks, GLERL. Another great service of the federal government!

The Harrison-Dever crib.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BCU canoe three-star training and assessment with Steve Macdonald

Alec and Pat tow a canoe during the three-star training
The irony of paddlesports is this: The more we paddle, the less time we have to write about it. This has been a particularly busy time, between the courses we've been coaching, events we've been organizing, paddling for pleasure, and the training we've been doing. Hence the radio silence on our blog.

Steve Macdonald, holding the fate of a very small canoeist in this hands.
The center of our attention for the past two weeks has been Steve Macdonald, BCU Level 5 canoe and whitewater kayak coach from Scotland, who was here to run a series of BCU trainings and assessments that Summit Sports and Have Kayaks, Will Travel co-sponsored. This intensive period was followed by The Gales Storm Gathering, co-sponsored by Go Kayak Now, Summit and us.

We'll spend the next few posts catching up on all of this.

This first post covers the 3* open canoe training and assessment we did with Steve.

To be honest, we've invested most of our paddlesports energy in kayaks, so while we have worked on our canoeing skills and gotten out for some trips, an immersion in canoeing has been long overdue. And that's just what we got. For two days, we worked on being efficient and effective in single-bladed craft.

Steve compares paddling a canoe to moving a barge with a matchstick. It's not inherently easy, so efficiency is of the essence. If it feels hard, he says, change what you're doing to minimize your effort.

Sailing with the aid of an additional canoe.
We spent time working on propulsion and steering, poling and rescues. We explored the effects of tilt and trim, and we paddled both tandem and solo. We came to appreciate a core concept for the 3-star canoeist: the fine balance between propulsion and steering in a forward J-stroke.

Steering around a buoy during the three-star training.
Poling, a shallow-water technique particularly useful on rivers.
While we worked on specific skills, we also gained an understanding of the BCU canoeing philosophy, which is to use one general-purpose canoe with a variety of techniques and in a variety of environments and conditions. This surprised us at first, but we came to enjoy just how much we could really do with that one canoe. And all the while, we observed and appreciated Steve's coaching techniques--a seamless integration of so many of the approaches we've been studying and practicing.

Receiving feedback from Steve Macdonald.
There's no doubt that what we learned about canoeing is hugely beneficial for our kayaking, too, as well as our coaching. It's all paddlesports; it's all about how we use our bodies, boats and blades to achieve the desired action in the water. Or, as Steve says, "It's all messing about in boats, as far as I'm concerned."

Congratulations to the Midwest's newest canoe three-star paddlers: Wendy Madgwick, David Yanowski, Chuck Stark, Pat Rota, and Sharon and Alec Bloyd-Peshkin. Well done!