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26 Miles for Lucy! ...Hugh Heward Canoe Challenge 2014

April 27, 2014

Lucy and I paddled the Hugh Heward Canoe Challenge yesterday with our pal John C.

We did the Half Hugh -- 25 miles. The farthest-ever paddle for Lucy! 6 hours of paddling. It was John's longest paddle, too.

Lucy and I paddled our 25-yr-old Mad River Malecite. (The cane seats are finally rotting thru. Gotta replace em with lawn-chair weaving.)

We also brought Pickles along with us.

It was a breezy, chilly, sunny spring day.

The reason we paddle every year on April 26 is to commemorate the day in 1790 when Hugh Heward and his 7 pals in 2 canoes escaped from Indians by paddling 50 miles from what is now Dimondale to Portland. On that trip HH became the first explorer to paddle across Michigan.

So it's a bit early in the year but it makes a nice spring day to kick off the canoe season. No bugs.

Lucy paddled the 13-mile Quarter Hugh with me last year in our big Old Town barge. This year we went longer but took the faster Mad River.

We did a team-shuttle with John C. and then he paddled with us in his new whitewater kayak.

We were all 3 a bit tuckered by the time we got to the finish line picnic. Last night I slept good'n'long, as did Lucy. She says she's feeling fine today. She reports that she had a good time except that she was cold in the beginning and the end. What a champ! ...A 14-yr-old girl who'd spend the day with her dad. Nice! (For me, that is!)

We encountered a wide variety of boat types as we paddled along. Some racers in "black boats" zoomed past us, as did a 4-man golden kevlar canoe. We saw kayaks and racing sea kayaks and several kinds of Kruger canoes.

We paddled all day with one tandem Kruger canoe with "World Record Canoe" painted on the side. Two guys paddling it said they'd been up until 2:30 that morning outfitting someone else's canoe trim. They were helping with the event and then had to wake up by 5am. They were a funny pair. They would often stop paddling and drift along, or could be seen leaning sideways, or stopped on the bank. They also did a lot of hollering amongst themselves or with people along the riverbank. Lots of jokes and Canadian accents. They were having a combination silly / exhausted day. "We're making our getaway! This is a stolen boat! Don't tell anyone you saw us!"

At the finish there were a couple dozen different Kruger boats. This is mainly a Kruger organized event, although everyone is welcome. The Kruger paddlers seem to like the longer distances more than others. Verlen was a Lansing native who paddled all the major waterways of North America, usually more than once. He inaugurated his last big event by starting the Yukon 1000 canoe race when he was 80 years old. His wife Jenny and his old pal Jim Woodruff, the canoe historian whose idea sparked the HH, were in attendance.

There's an annual Verlen Kruger Award given at the QWS each March. Yesterday they announced the new annual Jim Woodruff Award for "behind the scenes canoe action of distinction."

It's always a lot of fun visiting at the picnic afterward.

This year a team of college students showed off a garage sale find, a $25 rotted wood-strip race boat that is nearly certain to be a Verlen Kruger build! They are excited to refurbish it.

These are the same lads who are attempting a new Mississippi Record next month in their 4-man canoe. There were two such boats on the river yesterday!

The 3+ boat is a neat concept. I think it's highly suited for bigger waters and longer days like the HH. You can easily have 2 paddling and 1 lounging in the middle -- resting, reading (even out loud), or making meals. Even playing music, maybe. The 24-ft long boat glides well, and is stable, yet doesn't weigh much. It's called a Wenonah Minnesota 4. They also make a Minn 3 at 20 feet. That might really be the ticket.

Ya know, here's a question for mid-boat comfort and for boat dryness in general: I get water in a canoe when I paddle. When I change sides water drips into the hull. In a few hours I end up with a few cups of water down there getting stuff wet. How to prevent that? Well, you could keep it from spreading around by figuring out where it splashes and gluing in ridges of silione fore and aft of the splash-zone to catch the water there. Some people use spray skirts. I dunno if I'd like that. The pro's do that, tho. You could sponge out occasionally. Hmm...

But more importantly by far: I still haven't dialed in my Big Adventure Leadership skills. I kept asking Lucy if she was hungry or thirsty and she would say No. I had her eat and drink a fair amount, but really I shouldn't ask people these questions. I need to tell them to do it whenever I do. I do think she faded near the end. I made this same mistake last winter when 2 new "epic day" skiers were out with me and skiing farther than they ever had in their lives. I kept eating, drinking and asking them how they were doing. Of course they were doing fine until they collapsed. I should make sure that learning partners feed their face when I do. No asking. They simply need to do it. Bonking is too painful to let people make such a mistake when I'm around. Really, people shouldn't be hungry or thirsty at the end of an event -- nor should they be suffering, even unawares, from the effects of dehydration and low sugar. Being tired is enough to worry about! When exerting at a modest level one can re-fuel pretty much all day and end up without much specific degrading.

So, I should bring more food and force more food and water onto people and I should also bring more clothing. Thankfully, I brought *almost* enough extra clothing that Lucy was nearly comfy the whole time. It coulda been worse. I think I said "OK, bring a hat and gloves and coat," etc., but she didn't. I need to simply MAKE SURE that these things are done. There's a place for learning by mistakes and a place for making sure things are done right. Oh well! (Then there's re-applying sunscreen a couple times during the day...)

And I need to make some canoe modifications:

I need to stiffen up the Malecite. The seats hang from the gunnels ... and sway as they please. And the hull oil-cans. I'm going to shape foam blocks to wedge under all 3 seats and give stiffness to the hull. (It's set up to be a solo boat as well with a seat in the center.) And I'll extend the center block rearward to act as a stern foot brace. I'll even add foot-straps to it. And I'll set up some kind of better "dashboard" pack for snacks and bottles. Hmm, how to do that with a foot-brace. Maybe I just need another thwart-ish rod to hang the pack down from. But such packs also need either centered top straps or lower corner ties to ensure they hang vertically. I set up Lucy with a bow pack, which worked.

Well, we had a nice time.

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