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Little Miami River Slog

September 13, 2020
Not nearly enough water

slog \’slag\ 1: to plod one’s way perseveringly especially against difficulty. My daughter and I decided to go paddling on the Little Miami River. We both had things to do but wanted to “seize the moment” because summer was dwindling and the nice weather days were growing more and more rare. We should have checked the water levels first. Don’t want to ruin the film for you. Check it out.

Trying out the Kneeling Drops

September 2, 2020

A few weeks back, I took out the standard seat drops (the wooden piece that suspends a canoe seat to the gunwale) and installed kneeling drops. See previous post for details.

I finally had an opportunity to go paddling and see how they worked, how they felt and how I liked (or didn’t) them.

I made a video of the first outing and you can see it by clicking below.


Kayaking in Chincoteague

August 19, 2020

We were in Chincoteague Virginia this summer and we had the opportunity to go kayaking. We were staying at a rental home on Marsh Island which is adjacent to Chincoteague Island. We put in and took out at the base of the bridge onto Marsh Island. It was a beautiful day. If you want to see a video of this adventure. Click on the link below.

Daughter Father Canoe Trip

August 18, 2020

My daughter and I recently went canoeing on the Little Miami River in Ohio on a beautiful day in June. The Little Miami River is one of the first in the United States to be designated as a “National Wild and Scenic River.” We had alot of fun this afternoon and I only include highlights. The title of the video is drawn from a book by Rob Kesselring of the same title. Rob is an author, teacher, bush pilot and registered wilderness guide. He has led 32 canoe expeditions in arctic Alaska and the Canadian arctic. He is the father of 5 daughters. You can get his book here. Click on the link below to watch the video.

Installing Kneeling Drops in a Canoe

August 18, 2020

I recently made a DIY video on how to install kneeling drops in a canoe. I purchased a Northstar Northwind Solo in BlackLite and ordered it with sitting drops. I was curious to see how it handled with the kneeling drops so I purchased a pair from Rutabaga Paddlesports and installed them.

For those of you not familiar – the “drops” on a canoe are the piece that connects the seat to the gunwale (pronounced “gunnel”). They look like this:

Kneeling Drops


Sitting drops are generally longer and provide a lower seating position in the canoe which gives the paddler a lower center of gravity and a feeling of better stability. Kneeling drops are shorter, offering a higher seating position and are angled so that you can rest your bottom on it while kneeling in the canoe, or you may sit on it.

If you want to know how to install them – click on the link below for a step by step video

Father Daughter Kayaking

July 1, 2020

I just uploaded a new YouTube video

It is a 3 minute highlight video of a recent father daughter kayak outing. 

Secondary stability: Does it exist in the Hull Design? Or is it in the Paddler?

June 7, 2020

Disclaimer: I have a penchant for entertaining bold contrarian opinions. There was a fascinating article recently in Rapid Media‘s Paddling Magazine by Brian Day entitled “Why There is No Such Thing as Secondary Stability in Sea Kayaks.” The title intrigued me, so I dove right in. I found the article fascinating. I’ve been paddling for over 20 years and was taught this concept early on when I began shopping for my first kayak. The salesman seemed to know what he was talking about and it seemed to make sense, so I readily accepted it. I read about over the years in numerous articles, heard it at sea kayak presentations, even thought I experienced it in my own kayaks.

For those of you new to the concept of secondary stability, the idea is combined with the concept of initial stability to describe how stable a sea kayak feels when you are sitting in it in the water. When you sit in a kayak the first time you immediately sense how “tippy” it feels. Does it feel like it will immediately flip over if you take a deep breath? That would represent “low initial stability.” Does it feel like you could stand up and move around boat moving? That would represent “high initial stability.” Secondary stability is described by Day as “the tendency of the hull to resist capsize as its edge or deck nears the water.”

I won’t attempt to reproduce the well developed case that Brian Day wrote in his article. He does it well and you can read it here. As I read it, I reflected on conversations, presentations, books and magazine articles and my personal experiences. Day is not ambiguous in his opinion. He declares secondary stability doesn’t exist. He’s pretty clear. I like this approach. He takes a strong position and then proceeds to defend it.

Kurt Lewin was a psychologist who developed a theory of change that involves a three stage process: unfreezing, changing and refreezing. The foundation of the theory is that humans are resistant to change. I’m order to facilitate change, humans need to question their existing belief (unfreezing) look at a different perspective or idea (change) and then once convinced change is needed and appropriate, they incorporate the change. Day challenges the paddling community to question the ingrained belief of secondary stability as an attribute of hull design. Brian’s idea that secondary stability is actually related to paddler skill and not the hull design makes sense to me. His idea about flat bottom hull sea kayaks makes sense as he applied it to relatively narrow, long sea kayaks vs a jon boat or relatively wide recreational kayak. It’s not the flat bottomed hull that matters as much as how wide that hull is relative to the paddler.

I say “Bravo” Brian Day for questioning a common belief and challenging us to rethink what we believed was established and set in stone. Let the “unfreezing” begin!

Dayton Screening of the Paddling Film Festival postponed

March 13, 2020

The Paddling Film Festival is postponed until further notice. Our partners and sponsors are committed to providing events that are safe and comply with the state of Ohio and Center for Disease Control recommendations

The Coronavirus situation is dynamic and includes many unknowns so we cannot release a reschedule date at this time. We will keep you posted on the new date. Those with tickets will be able to use or transfer to another person their current tickets.

Stay healthy, adventurous and social distance yourself in a kayak, SUP or canoe.

Tom and Cliff

Paddling Film Festival coming back to Dayton again in 2020

January 15, 2020


We have just secured the date for the 2020 Paddling Film Festival. This is our TENTH year in a row of hosting. We will be hosting along with Tomfoolery Outdoors and hosting at The Neon in Dayton.

Tickets on sale now

March 19, 2020

7:30 pm

The Neon 

Tickets: $12

Click here for online tickets

Strained, Soaked and Thwarted

June 30, 2019

Picture This

You’re neck deep in chilly, rushing, river water. Your left hand is barely clinging to a downed tree and your right hand is tightly grasping a fully swamped canoe. A moment of decision. Suddenly it’s quite clear how important the decision is that you’re about to make. You realize you’re going to have to let go of one of these things.

Wait a second! How did I end up here? I didn’t expect this.

Beautiful Day

It was a beautiful summer day, sunny and about 80 degrees. I knew it was going to be nice and had already loaded my canoe gear in and on my car before going to work. I got off work and was driving to a familiar spot near my home when I made a last minute choice to try a new section of river.


Put in and safe parking

I found a put in and a safe place to leave my car, texted my wife to see if she and my daughter could move my car downstream and set out for what looked like a nice and easy four mile section of a flat water river.



Put in

It was beautiful. Quiet, warm and sunny. The birds singing on the late afternoon air. Great blue herons wading in the river, white tail deer scampering away as I approached. The water levels were back to normal flow and clearing up after several weeks of rain. I wondered how cluttered the river would be with debris after the flooding in previous weeks. I felt apprehensive, not knowing this section of river, and trying to imagine what would happen if it became impassable when I was nowhere near a road or reasonable access. For about an hour there were no obstructions and the river was gorgeous. Most of it was tree lined and fairly secluded. Periodically it would open up and you would realize you were passing by someone’s backyard.


Then I approached the first obstruction. A small tree had fallen across a narrow section of the river and the small upper limbs were extending from the water surface about 8 feet.


First strainer encountered on route

I considered paddling through it, but figured I would probably end up with a stick in my eye, so I looked around for other options. It seemed relatively easy to take out and carry around this area. It was, and I did.

About five minutes later I reached a second obstruction. This one was much larger with three large trees lying across one another with zero options to paddle around or through.

Obstacle/Strainer number two

I was able to make my way to river left and climb up on the logs. They were stacked in such a way that they were almost like steps. I was able to safely pull my canoe up and over and rest it on the downstream side of the obstruction close enough to climb back in safely and paddle on. I was feeling pretty good at this point. I had encountered two obstructions and was able to navigate past them without much trouble.

It was about 8:00 PM at this point and I wasn’t sure how much further I had to go to get to my car. I had more than an hour of daylight left and I thought I was going to be fine but I was just a little bit doubtful. I paddled around a right hand bend, back to a left hand bend and saw a medium sized tree across the river with a low spot in the center where the water was flowing over.

Strainer number three

It came up pretty quickly and I didn’t have much time to really think about what I wanted to do when the bow of my canoe bumped into the low point of the log. I scooted the front of the canoe up on the log and thought I could scoot it forward and then off and paddle on without getting out. This was my first time in this kind of situation in my new composite canoe. I didn’t like the scraping, creaking, cracking sounds I heard next and wasn’t sure how the aramid and carbon fiber would respond to these stresses. In my polyethylene (read: plastic) kayak, I would have had no worries. In my old Royalex canoe, again – no problem. But this black beauty… I didn’t want to mistreat her. Especially since we were just getting to know each other :-). I stepped up onto the log, picked her up and slid her forward so that she was bow first and angled downward into the rushing water. I climbed back in and started to scoot forward. As the canoe transitioned from the flat, center portion to the “V” shaped stern, she immediately twisted 90 degrees to the left and filled with water. Next thing I remember is being in the river and not being able to touch the bottom. SOOOO GLAD I HAD MY PFD (life-jacket) ON AND TIGHT!!!! Fortunately, my paddle went right into the boat and stayed there.


So, I’m neck deep in chilly, rushing, river water, my left hand barely clinging to the downed tree and my right hand grasping a fully swamped canoe. Assess, THINK, and decide. I’m going to have to let go of one of these things. I want to hold onto this log because it feels safe but I really need this canoe to get myself back to my car. I don’t know what’s under the surface of this water. Are there more strainers underneath that will trap my legs? How far will I need to float down the river until the water is shallow enough to stand up? I can’t hold on to both much longer. I don’t see any strainers, it looks shallow about 30 feet downstream. Ok, you’re going to have to let go of the tree. Here goes… letting go…. immediately flying downstream holding onto a flooded canoe. Feels ok, almost calm (did I make the right choice? Am I going to be ok?). Seconds later. My feet skid long the smooth rock covered riverbed and it’s shallow enough to slow myself and stop. I’m able to twist the canoe upside down and dump out the water and flop her back on the surface of the river and push her to the shallow shore. I stand there in ankle deep water, soaked to the skin and breathing heavily, heart and head pounding and the tremendous feeling of relief. I’M OK! Phew. Breathe. Should I call for help?). Calm down. Man, my fingers hurt. Relax. You’re fine. Shoot, there goes my hydro flask floating down the river. It’s ok, you’re safe. Should I call for help? No, you’re fine. How much further is it? How many more strainers are there? How would I get out of here anyway? Relax…

Now, as I sit here in the clear, reflective perspective of my La Z Boy, I know that there were no more strainers or obstacles in the last 30 minutes of the trip. My fingers would hurt for s few days from jamming the bark up under the fingernails, and that I would be fine. Just fine.


There was one more thing. Once I got myself together, I put back in and resumed paddling. The first blind bend kind of freaked me out and I tried to hug the inside of the curve. I ended up getting out and carrying to the edge of the rock bar on the left. As I straddled the canoe to get back in the saddle, I misjudged the seat and ended up sitting directly on the rear thwart and snapping it in half. Great. Just great. Well, she’s broken in now…

Lessons learned

1) Always wear your PFD (life-jacket) all the time. If I hadn’t been wearing it when I flipped the canoe, the scenario would have been very different. 2) my new canoe is flat in the middle and “V” shaped on the ends. More so than my old canoe and my kayaks. Trying to scoot over a log might not be the best strategy 3) when you get into trouble, don’t panic. Assess your situation, think through the options and then make the best decision you can make and act. 4) I’m so glad I had traveled light that afternoon. I only lost a water bottle. 5) Don’t plop on your thwart – it will break 6) When I got home I pulled out my Cliff JacobsonCanoeing and Camping: Beyond the Basics” and read all the sections on river safety, evasive tactics and strainers. As Cliff says “whenever possible, stay on the inside of bends.” Also, I need to learn and practice a back ferrys and forward ferrys as a valuable evasive skill. 6) while not necessary, it would have been nice to have another paddler along with me to help me think through things and also to help out in times of ” occasional upset” as Cliff Jacobson refers to them.