Skip to main content
  The Houston Canoe Club
Share our Joy of Paddling!

P.O. Box 925516
Houston, Texas

The Houston Canoe Club 

is a Paddle America Club

Link to ACA

Add Me To Your Mailing List
HomeNL-2019-06 Paddling Perspectives

Paddling Perspectives: Your Cosmic Paddling Questions Answered
June 2019
by Kent Walter

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column is intended to be funny, but this one provides some surprisingly accurate information on two serious subjects.


Q: If I bang my head, or have a stroke or heart attack or some other event that leaves me speechless while kayaking, how do my fellow paddlers know how to help me?

A: Carry a laminated Emergency Information Card. I rubber-band one around my wallet in my dry bag and put another one in a pocket of my PFD with an edge exposed. You can hand-write one and laminate it with packaging tape. This is much better than having people who don’t know you well trying to guess at solutions to symptoms that could have potentially life-altering consequences for you. Essentials would be allergies, diabetes, blood type, pacemaker and things of that ilk.

Q: As summer approaches, thoughts turn to water (for drinking). There are several ways to carry it. Which is best for kayaking and canoeing?

A: As with many questions posed to this editor, there is not just one answer. From personal experience, here is what I can tell you:

  1. I started with 0.89 FL OZ (500ml) disposable Ozarka or Kirkland bottles – convenient, modular, cheap and, if you are really tight, reusable.Three seems about right for the average day paddle (4 if going with Bruce Bodson) with another 2 spares in the car.For multi-day trips in the spring, 4-5 bottles per day will suffice for drinking, dishwashing and teeth brushing.The disadvantage with bottles is that you have to stop paddling to get the cap off and hold the bottle up to your lips.Your boat wanders off course and you get behind the pack if everyone is not drinking at the same time (I have never seen this happen unless we are on a declared or mutinous break).And woe to the paddler who drops the cap . . 
  2. Larger versions of the 500ml bottles – same advantages and disadvantages, but fewer bottles to deal with, and some are BPA-free, for those concerned with such things as the unknown potential effects of Bisphenol A (a plastics hardener that got a bad rap in 2008).You’ve gotta wonder what “they” use now for hardening plastic . . .Nobody’s saying anything . . . hmmmm . . .
  3. Third-party reusable bottles (BPA-free plastic, stainless steel, etc.) have the same inherent problems as the higher-end disposables in that they require at least one hand, which disables paddling, but some eliminate the dropped/lost cap syndrome of the disposable bottles.Depending on their configuration, this can save some time for those who have not mastered the skill of juggling.
  4. “Camelbak” style bladders with tubes ending in bite valves are used by serious kayakers and canoeists (racers) because you can get a drink with only momentary disconnection from your paddle to position the bite valve in your mouth.  Disadvantages are the initial cost and continuing maintenance – these are not the easiest things to dry out after an outing, and it is very important to clean and dry them out to avoid issues with mold/mildew.  IMPORTANT TIP: After a day of sucking water through the bite valve, DMSO works well for the resulting kink in your neck.
  5. This brings us to bladders without tubes – least convenient, but highest capacity option for long trips – useful for replenishing the other containers when stopped for camping or breaks.  Not particularly convenient for getting a quick drink while underway.  Advantage is that you can store quite a bit of water and it will not take up noticeable space because it conforms to the bottom of your boat.  Also, the weight is concentrated at the bottom of your boat for lowest (most stable) center of gravity.  Cautionary note: In a solo boat, it is best to position these bladders behind and as close to your seat as practical.  In tandems, as close to the center of the boat as possible is generally best.  In either case, for fussy owners, position of the bladder can be used to trim your boat for wind and wave conditions.  These also require the maintenance mentioned in #3 above, but without the tube and valve cleaning.
In case you are wondering, after all of the experimenting, I have reverted to the convenient 500ml disposable bottles (1) for both multiday and single-day trips, BPA be damned.

A battery   AA-A concept   B-AA battery   F-AA battery

Q: I’ve been changing the batteries in all of my gear, getting ready to go on a multi-day trip.  I have replaced “AAA” batteries, “AA” batteries, “C” batteries and “D” batteries.  This got me thinking, what happened to the “A” and “B” batteries?   

A: When my dad was a boy, just as the last of the dinosaurs were dying off, there were “A” and “B” batteries, which were used to power tube radios. “A” and “B” did not refer to a form factor (size), but rather the function.  The A battery was typically low voltage DC (1.5V) to heat the filaments inside the radio tubes, and the B battery was high voltage DC (22.5, 45, 67.5 or 90V) to supply the “plate” circuits of the radio.  Electrons would flow through the partial vacuum inside the tube from the filament to the positively charged plate.  Many tubes also had small structures between the filament and the plate known as grids. These grids required a “C” battery to regulate the number of electrons striking the plate.
I don’t know of any “E” batteries, but we still use the “F” batteries – four of them go into one of the square lantern batteries with the wire spring thingies on the top.

Q: I have heard that HCC trips take on a kind of personality based on the trip coordinator.  Can you describe these “styles”, or trip personalities for our current trip coordinators?

A: Sure.  Here you go . . .

1. Tom Douglas: Fully scouted, educational, often with ecology and conservation orientations befitting his Sierra Club focus, most often on the flat water of the Cypress swamps east of the Trinity River (Lake Charlotte, Lost River, Mud Lake, Miller Lake, Lake Pass, Champion Lake).  On his trips, Tom always includes a long break with introductions and historical perspectives on the area.  He has a cult following for his semi-annual trip titled “Cypress Wonderland”.

2. Bruce Bodson: Educational and generally high-mileage trips on rivers with difficult put-ins and take-outs – most recently assessing the mussel populations in the Brazos.  You will notice that repeat participants are often the athletes and masochists in the club (Brent  Hwang, David Portz and Bruce himself).  Bruce is also our resident Christmas Bird Count organizer (when conditions allow).

 3. Christy Long: Fun paddles, often incorporating a night of camping – seems to prefer the San Marcos River and other points west.

 4. David Portz: David takes us on original trips that he has personally scouted out before, and coordinates the HCC portion of other organized paddles, like the Buffalo Bayou and Greens Bayou Regattas.

 5. Fran Wilcox: Fun paddles in local to semi-local venues.  She is branching out to include camping trips in her repertoire.

6. Natalie Wiest: In addition to serving as our Fleet Captain, Natalie runs general purpose trips, often close-to-home, exploiting the convenience of our Bayou City waterways and drawing on her personal extensive knowledge of the many paddling opportunities all around us (she wrote the book).

 7. Kent Walters: Most often plans multi-day progressive camping trips on rivers with long hours of driving, brutal shuttles and no substantial redeeming value except camaraderie, active water and appreciation of spectacular scenery.  His use of the multi-day format encourages a high probability of getting tired of each other, thus naturally limiting future participation.  He favors the Big Bend area and the Buffalo River of Northern Arkansas, but is on the lookout for a few other locations.


The author, Kent Walters