Check out the video here (featuring CASKA's own Tim Flentye)!
This is a must-do race...see you there!
Check out the video here (featuring CASKA's own Tim Flentye)!
This is a must-do race...see you there!
Jim Des Jardins is an experienced Chicago River paddler in all seasons (e.g., here). This is his report of a July 25, 2009 paddle that he co-hosted with Michael "Captain" Taylor.
Four of us, Laurent Yen, Michael Taylor, Chad (friend of Michael Taylor) and I, paddled fromdown the river past the junction with the main branch and for about a quarter mile into the south branch of the river before returning to Clark Park. We had originally thought of starting at Ping Tom Park in China Town, but they were having . The river was filled with dozens of kayaks and canoes, some from the Loop the Goose paddle, which was also from Clark Park.
We did not paddle on the main branch because of the heavy tour boat traffic. I personally found paddling in the downtown area architecturally and scenically spectacular, but was made slightly uncomfortable from the high volume of tour boat traffic.
It was a fast trip down river with a strong north wind behind us. We stopped at the landing on the west side of the river below North Avenue and chatted with Dave Olson of Kayak Chicago. He will have the facility open for launching and takeout from through Sunday. The paddle back upstream was slow from the current and high winds against us, but It was a good paddle on a nice day.
Jim Des Jardins
Presented by NAVTEQ. Registration for the 2009 Encourage your friends and family to join you as your group paddles along the wooded riverbanks of the north side neighborhoods, around the industrial corridor of Goose Island, and finally, through the urban canyons of downtown Chicago. If your pals and relatives prefer to keep their feet on dry ground, invite them to sponsor your participation in the Flatwater Classic paddle-a-thon. Introduced last year, the optional paddle-a-thon provides people who love a clean and thriving river with a way to help support Friends efforts on its behalf. The top fundraiser will win a tandem kayak and paddles courtesy of Erehwon Mountain Outfitters.
Chicago River Flatwater Classic
Presented by NAVTEQ.
Registration for the 2009Classic canoe and kayak race opened with a flurry of activity. Word spread quickly about this fun and challenging paddling event that showcases the beauty of and the river that runs through it. Be sure to register soon! Starting times are assigned on a first-come, first served basis.
Encourage your friends and family to join you as your group paddles along the wooded riverbanks of the north side neighborhoods, around the industrial corridor of Goose Island, and finally, through the urban canyons of downtown Chicago. If your pals and relatives prefer to keep their feet on dry ground, invite them to sponsor your participation in the Flatwater Classic paddle-a-thon. Introduced last year, the optional paddle-a-thon provides people who love a clean and thriving river with a way to help support Friends efforts on its behalf. The top fundraiser will win a tandem kayak and paddles courtesy of Erehwon Mountain Outfitters.
Here is the summary of what I captured:
Below is a report of a successful recent crossing of Lake Michigan by John Puskar and Drew Musser from Two Rivers, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan. The report is authored by John Puskar and references John Martin's account of his 2007 crossing, which you can find here. Paul Redzimski and Mike Agostinelli also made a Lake Michigan crossing in 2007.
July 20, 2009
John Puskar & Drew Musser Cross Lake Michigan from
This write up is to document the Lake Michigan crossing so that others can learn from the
experience and, when I again read this report, I can shake my head and say, why? The
report will cover specs, expectations, trip, summary and lessons learned.
What: Crossing Lake Michigan in sea kayaks.
Why: A fellow name Drew Musser who had just graduated Air Force Academy as a Second
Lieutenant and who will be assigned to a unit to which I once belonged wanted to make the
crossing. The unit he is joining is a Special Forces unit out of Fort Bragg in North
Carolina also known as the Green Berets. I think the thought of the team spirit and the memories of the days when "we would say go, we went" was a huge rush for me and I am always willing to support our units.
How: Via sea kayaks across Lake Michigan and return via ferry.
When: Whenever Drew made the call to go and before he returned for duty (July).
Where: Lake Michigan
Who: John Puskar, age 46, weight 200 lbs., height 6'4" and 20 plus years experience as a
paddler. Paddling a Current Designs Solstice GTS with rudder. Drew Musser, age 22, weight 180 lbs., height 6'2", three times in a sea kayak and took one 6-hour class. Paddling a Current Designs Solstice GT with rudder.
My thought was that I should always be in a ready state. To do this trip, I would need to pull the equipment and logistics of the trip together. Being experienced in wisdom, technique and accustomed to an assortment of kayaking conditions would give me an edge over youth and endurance.
My main concern was that my shoulders would give out over the long haul. They often hurt from holding a dance frame and continue to be aggravated by paddling and lifting the paddle for a vertical stroke. To compensate, I have been working on keeping my elbows tucked to prevent working the shoulders too much. Another concern was Drew's limited experience of paddling in different weather conditions.
We did do a 10 plus mile shake down paddle with full gear and took the wind and one foot waves from all sides. What was interesting was that, in some conditions, edging the boat felt good to keep the boat on course. Other times the rudder felt way better because the wind felt like it wanted to push you over when you were trying to edge. We were also matched with boats except that Drew's boat is a little bit wider and the paddle he was using was about 6 inches longer than mine.
I was going to use just a marine chart but after reading the account of John Martin's crossing and asking myself how he knew he was at each mile point, I decided to get a GPS/Radio a few weeks before the crossing. Of course it was delivered two days before the launch. I got the Rino 530HCx with which overall I am pleased.
Some things are a little bit difficult to figure out such as when I went to calibrate the compass, I thought it said "Slow" and when I checked against my hand compass it was off. What I missed was the word in front "to". So I was rotating it "to slow" and when I moved it at the correct speed, things were fine. Another difficulty was measuring distance. I was able to put the 1st mark on our location, and was able to drag a line to the point I wanted to get to. But I was unable to see any numbers of distance to say how far. The next day on the top display, bottom right corner there was a very small number that had miles after it. Also at night when we tried to use the scale of the screen I did not see the point in 1.2. So when the screen went from 2 to 12 then 1, it did not make sense.
The float plan for our Lake Michigan crossing had two speeds: 4 mph and 3 mph with each of them including a 15 minute break after every one hour of travel. Estimated time for arrival was from 2:15 a.m. to 6 a.m. Central Time the next day. Total distance was 55 miles plus 5 to get to the ferry.
Preparing Boats at Launch Site
Try to keep this short and FYI as a project manager I have a tendency to only point out what folks would say are the bad things. My thoughts are if it works, leave it alone and if it is not quite right, fix it. So I will list what works really well and what needs improvement. If something is fine, I will not note.
Drove to Two Rivers for an 8:45 a.m. launch. [Chart of launch area.] Drew's parents were there and they are very nice folks. My bad was in allowing them to distract me from the main task at hand. I should have known from being a project manager that whenever you multitask, the quality of the work goes down. So I forgot to take my wallet. I ended up leaving it in the car and did not double check my location before starting.
I did check the starting location with the GPS and I thought it said I was south of my starting point which I felt was fine. The problem is when I checked later at home and re-ran the road I took, I determined that I had been north of my starting position not south. So then I asked, why did the hand held unit put my route north of where I started? And why on the computer it shows the track north of where I started? And why when I go back to the handheld the first half of the track is missing. I have a lot to learn in using the GPS. Bottom line: don't throw your trust into a computer. They are set up by humans and have lots of software switches to go wrong.
Ready to go
Left around 8:50 a.m. after pictures, etc. 10 mph winds out of the southeast, less than one foot waves. Had to take a break early due to stomach cramps from the fast food I ate early that day. Trying to use the bathroom in cold water was not easy. Good thing there was plenty of water to clean up with and soap was not needed.
Took another break early due to stomach problems again. Winds picked up maybe 15 mph out of the southeast, waves 2 feet and less chops and nice rollers sometimes. FYI, I am too tall to do a cowboy re-entry so I used the paddle float. Even in waves it work fine. Water was still damn cold to go!
The computer at home said we were going 80 degrees but I know from the headings we were trying to hold it was always 90 degrees or more. I thought I could cut some distance off our route by shaving the angle until we hooked up later out in the lake to the original course.
We did not know we were wrong in thinking we were south of the launch site. From the computer you can see each stop because I would dive south to hook back up with Drew. Judging from the computer, it looks as though I was being pushed more to the north than was Drew. I know I did say to him it seems odd that we both hold the degree and I always seem to drift left and him right. Do not know why.
Also every hour we decided to switch who watched the compass. This way, one kept us true to the track while the other could relax and concentrate on moving the boat forward.
Note: Drew paddles really well in terms of speed. We started with 4.7 average speed and it did drop over time. At one point I counted in 60 seconds I took 43 strokes with my paddle. The only way to keep up with Drew was by leading forward on the catch of the stroke, moving my hands closer together so I could extend the paddle a little bit farther out and keep it in the water longer. I also lifted my arm that was punching so I used some of my arms. The disadvantage was my shoulders would get sharp pains and I was going too fast to have any real control of my stroke.
About one quarter of the way out, the waves grew to 3 foot waves and chop with breakers (white caps). Wind was about the same, maybe a little bit more, but out of the South. At one time, when Drew was leading (watching the compass), I tried staying to his right. When it was time to hook up, I caught a wave and surfed over to him. I think that is how we got a maximum speed of 8.5 mph. A few of the waves did get to 4 feet. This is based upon Drew dropping behind a wave as it rolled pass him.
Note: V bottom boats are a challenge with the consent adjustment of the abs to keep the body upright as the waves roll past from right to left. Makes it really hard for me to pee when you pop the skirt to go and you keep tightening up your abs to keep you upright. Also the waves would break over the deck from the chops and you get more water in the boat then what you trying to get out. I would have used my round-bottomed boat but due to time and the fact that it was well worn on the bottom, I was afraid of hull integrity.
We lost sight of land from beyond about 10 miles out. Waves and wind picked up and came from the south. The first quarter of the trip we were flying and pumping to get to the other side. Before halfway, with my stomach starting to calm down and getting tired of the waves hitting me in the chest and stomach, I was thinking of changing course just to keep from soaking my right arm. I was thinking how would the Greenland style boats work in these conditions? They sit lower than our boats and I would think they would get a lot more submerged from the waves. Neither sounded like fun to me, LOL.
After the quarter way mark the mind game began of when we get half way across, we still have the same distance to paddle to get to shore. That thought seemed depressing. Just before half way, we started to get pumped again because once we are half way, we made it. Just need to get to land then.
Was thinking of skipping a break but Drew needed to stop to pee about every break. I was afraid of dehydration because of my stomach so I monitored myself closely but seemed ok for now. Interesting note: at the half way, we were at our maximum elevation of 54 feet above our lowest elevation. Now I am guessing that is due to air pressure and not the water being pulled from gravity, Although the high was
also around half way where we received the worst of the waves. I just don't know about the 54 feet.
Also, when we were going out, we watched the weather. A front was behind us and looked to be moving our way. In front was another front - neither showed up on radar. Visibility in the beginning was limited to a few miles and up to three-quarters way a mist kept visibility down to a few miles.
Three quarters of the way out, we could see LAND. Wow are we excited! Used the map to check a bearing, checked the GPS that agreed and we just crossed over our planned route. So we thought "time to head for the town." We were going to head for the point and then travel south but why not shave some more off our distance. From the computer you could see each stop because I would always paddle to Drew. So you see a quick change in course then a drift to the north because of the wind.
Ok, so picture this. We see land 15 miles out, just a gray spot, then as we paddle a little bit farther you see sand dunes and detail. Sun is setting behind us. The sun starts to set behind the clouds and, ugh, Land is gone, some lights appear. [Chart of Michigan shore.]
We had our bearing to the city and double checking the computer we were right on. Not sure how we got lucky on that, LOL! So as the land disappears and faint lights appear, things seemed to get smaller. Lights on the chart did not match as well as we would like from our boat. For example, the towers to our northeast were so clear at one time that I thought you can see the frame holding the lights and we were 19 miles away from that. Yet, the light at the point to me looked like a boat parked with a lantern at the base and never seemed that close even when we passed it on our left at less than 2 miles away. We put our running lights out because it was getting dark.
So we paddled for 10 miles in the dark, thinking when the heck are we going to get there. We decided we are not going to make the town and will need to rest so we headed for the state park just north of town. We aimed for a red light that flashed yet was not on the map. Our running lights died so we used our head lamps.
Waves were down to less than a foot and coming from the southwest. I told Drew that my legs were shivering uncontrollably and hypothermia was a possibility. But at that time, core and thinking processes seemed fine. After reading John Martin's account of his crossing and his complaint of his legs being hot, I decided not to wear a wet suit. Instead, I wore neoprene shorts.
Two things that were bad about that option. One thing is that there is a seam about 4 inches down from the waist. More for color than function. The seam felt like a knife cutting into you if you put pressure back. Near the end it just burned! Second the shorts were tight and did provide insulation but to pull them to the side in waves made it a bit challenging. Hard to hold the shorts, bottle, keep your body up so
the boat goes with the waves and relax to pee. . .LOL.
The other side: I fit well in the boat and had good body rotation to move the boat forward and my legs were not working hard. I also have what they call a runners heart and even though I did not take my heart rate, I don't feel it ever really got going. Another note, the foam pad we used under our heels kept our feet from falling asleep.
There was no moon, about 6 falling stars and very dark!
Now we were less than a mile out but did not know it. The red flashing light we had a fixed on disappeared behind the horizon. The red towers to the north are also gone. The white light on the point never seemed to be all that big, but we seemed to see shore to the left and noticed what we thought was a boat at the tip-- must be the tower. Dang, that is a light house?
My shoulders were very tender, I could not keep my legs warm and asked Drew if we should go to the nearest land mass. The direction we were heading would get us to the land mass in about a mile. We decided to turn left and listen for the waves crashing and hope it is sand. We were .7 of a mile out and land we found!
I landed first to check out the shore to make sure it was safe. Priority was change clothes to stay warm, food and fire. Drew landed and to my surprise did not have much feeling in his legs. He ended up falling in. When we stopped paddling, both of us were chilled to the bone and shivering badly. Still had thought process that we quickly dry off and change into the wet suits that were stored and dry in the back of the boats. We did not change into them earlier because we thought we could make land in time. Also, to put the wetsuits on would be a bit challenging on the open water and I did not want to take a chance to hurt either shoulder.
We got changed, set up a perimeter using the boats to shield from intruders and wind. Drew got out the MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) and I set up to eat. We started the process of warming the food and while that was going on we collected firewood and got the fire going. I ate meat balls and spaghetti; mmm, took me back, LOL. Drew had beef stew, his favorite. I think MREs are like the trip, an acquired taste!
Took a nap next to the fire and slept well. I was first to awake to the sun and although it was early, not early enough. We did not stretch but reloaded and took off for the ferry. Once again it felt like the objects were too far to get to, and we had the wind in our face. We also were very stiff and decided to go back to sleep. We turned in and set up to catch some Zs. Keep in mind it is Tuesday so we were surprised at the number of folks came out to the beach. You'd think it was a weekend or nobody works. Folks also were very nice! No one messed with our stuff. They walked by and let us be. Just very cool folks.
So we took it easy and decided we would find the ferry and food. As we paddled I thought I saw online a break wall protecting the entrance. [Ludington harbor chart.] On the chart I had it was not detailed enough to show one. The handheld GPS did not seem to show one either so it was difficult to figure out where the entrance was. We thought we saw two green lights on the way in the night before. But when we got closer you could see the green light and it just looked dirty and faded. Maybe that is why it was hard to find the entrance?
We ran into a very nice couple canoeing in the lake. We stopped and chatted for a bit and they took our pictures. We also noticed a number of kayaks, canoes and small sailing boats on shore. The town (Ludington) seemed very nice all the way around.
The folks in the canoe gave us directions to find the ferry. They said you can't miss the spot. They park the ferry next to the other boat they use for parts. I am then thinking "use for parts!" am I sure this is a good idea? We also stretched before launching this time and both of us felt excellent.
Drew bought the tickets to go home since I left my wallet at the car and we walked into town for some food. Again, everyone was very nice and helpful. The ferry came, we loaded and were back to Wisconsin by midnight. Was home by 5 a.m.because my eyes got tired and I slept at a rest stop.
Lessons learned, and facts
1. 62.6 total miles
2. Moving time 17 hours 48 minutes
3. Stopped time 2 hours 19 minutes
4. Max speed 8.5 mph
5. Moving avg. 3.5 mph
6. Overall avg. 3 mph
7. Took 43 cycles per minute
8. 45,924 strokes for the entire trip
9. If I was asked by a military buddy to do it again YES!
10. If anyone else said let's do it. . .probably not. I'd rather take the ferry across
and run the coast line.
11. Don't rush when starting.
12. Don't get distracted from what needs to be done.
13. Don't assume technology is always right.
14. Sun glasses are good to keep the glare down but not so good for seeing when the
waves are splashing in your faces.
15. Bigger opening for the drink bottle when peeing.
16. Would have been nice to see the coastline both at night and day for reference.
Locals said sometimes the lights are not on. (I doubt that, the fog just hides them I
17. Gloves were a good idea. Got that from John's report and the blisters he had.
18. I think a longer paddle would help in speed.
19. Need to better understand the GPS unit and tools it comes with but still worth it.
20. Better shorts, or outfit that lets you get in and out but can still regulate the
21. Best experience was the camp fire on the beach.
22. Worst was the pain in the shoulders some times.
23. Waxing the boats seem to help out with speed.
24. Remember to turn off cell phone before leaving. Cell phone dead when I got to the other side
and was not much good then.
25. Have a distribution plan when you get back regarding who you told so that they
know you got back ok.
Overall glad we did the trip and enjoyed seeing the town and the people!
From CASKA Board member Lyn Stone:
7/26, Sunday, 6:30pm - 8:30pm 8/2, Sunday, 6:30pm - 8:30pm 8/10, Monday, 10:00am - 12:00pm 8/14, Friday, 10:00am - 12:00pm 8/16, Sunday, 6:30pm - 8:30pm CHEERS is also looking to arrange for pool sessions in Alsip and Oak Lawn. Here is CHEERS' description of the gig: "We are looking for people willing to capsize or roll 5 times in one session and just kayak or canoe for the other." Who else will pay you for playing in the water? Contact CHEERS at 1-800-688-0582 if you would like to participate in the study.
7/26, Sunday, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
8/2, Sunday, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
8/10, Monday, 10:00am - 12:00pm
8/14, Friday, 10:00am - 12:00pm
8/16, Sunday, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
CHEERS is also looking to arrange for pool sessions in Alsip and Oak Lawn. Here is CHEERS' description of the gig: "We are looking for people willing to capsize or roll 5 times in one session and just kayak or canoe for the other." Who else will pay you for playing in the water?
Contact CHEERS at 1-800-688-0582 if you would like to participate in the study.
Tom Eckels has been doing a great job organizing cleanup efforts on rivers that make up the northeastern Illinois water trail system. Here is his report of a recent cleanup. Please email Tom if you would like to join a future cleanup.
We had another successful cleanup on the Upper DesPlaines River on Sunday, July 19. Everyone came prepared with raincoats so it didn’t rain! The temperature wasn’t too hot, and a light cloud cover prevented a sunburn.
After a slightly later than planned car-shift, we launched 4 canoes and 1 kayak. Just after Rt. 137 we found some large metal pieces. One fit in a canoe; the other was a 4’x4’ metal frame. We ferried it over to the other bank and left it beside the Bike Path just south of the construction. Continuing on we found several car tires, a , a big metal cross of metal pipe, a lot of miscellaneous garbage, a ton of tennis balls, a soccer ball, etc.
There is an island just south of Rt.137. Just south of on river-right we found 4 car tires buried in the mud. They have been there for a while because they are root-bound into the mud/muck. We got one out, but would need shovels to get the others. We will need to target these for another day.
Besides the big metal frame which was left south of Rt. 137 along the bike path, the rest of the garbage collected was left beside the garbage can at the parking lot at Oak Spring canoe launch. While this is a short reach, it still took 4 ½ hours (approx.) to clean up.
While there are currently no run-of-river obstructions, there are a number of log-jams that are pretty close to blocking the river. The next high-water event may jam up the reach.
Our next scheduled cleanup is scheduled for August 8, 2009, where we will be cleaning up from Oak Spring Road down to Rt. 60. On August 16 we have a cleanup which I am tentatively suggesting for between Rt. 120 and Independence Grove. On August 29 we have a joint cleanup planned centered around the Ryerson Woods Forest Preserve where the Forest Preserve Stewards will be joining us on-land while Water TrailKeepers will be cleaning up on the river. If you want information on these or our other activities, please let me know!
JULY 19, 2009 CLEANUP OVERVIEW
Reach: Independence Grove to Oak Spring Road
Water Level: Under 100cfs at Gurnee Gauge
Reverse Car Shift::
Total Volunteer Hours: 56
Paddling Club Participants Regina Watts (PSC)
Maureen Magner (PSC)
Margie Levenberg (PSC)
Milt Levenberg (PSC)
LCFPD Volunteers: Rob Ratz (also PSC)
Tom Eckels (also PSC, PCP, and CASKA)
South Manitou Island Lighthouse (Watercolor by Hether Hoffman)
Eight intrepid souls--Pat Lutsch, Hether Hoffman, Tom Heineman, Russ Johnson, Jennifer Ochsner, Dave Kaknes, Jeanie Kaknes, and I--spent a pleasant but somewhat challenging few days paddling the Manitou Islands of Lake Michigan. We had rain every day, high winds and small craft advisories that stranded the group for an extra day on the islands, unorthodox campsites, and a very good time. As Pat Lutsch summed up the trip, it was "the best trip from hell I ever had."