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Staying Sane Through the Winter

Recent cold weather has many of us putting away our boats for the season.  It’s time to figure out how we can occupy our time until the sun warms up the water again next spring.  Here are some suggestions.  You might be surprised at how quickly the winter will pass if you can stay busy.

    1. Buy a drysuit and other cold weather gear so that you can paddle all winter.  (Lake Mighigan rarely freezes over completely)
    2. Take a paddling trip to a warmer climate.
    3. Plan next summer’s trips.  Looking at maps and researching your destination is half the fun of travel (in my opinion).
    4. Learn how to navigate.  “Kayak Navigation” by David Burch is the ultimate book on the subject.
    5. Figure out a way to mount a compass on the deck of your kayak.  It makes navigation much easier.
    6. Subscribe to every paddling magazine you can find.
    7. Read engrossing books about other people’s travels to inspire you to get out more often next season.
    8. Improve the fit and/or comfort of your kayak by adding or customizing the foam in your cockpit.
    9. Give your fiberglass boat a good waxing or apply a coat of 303 Protectant to your plastic kayak.  Put 303 on all rubber hatch covers.
    10. While you’re at it, apply 303 Protectant to the latex gaskets on your drysuit, dry top, dry pants, and paddling jacket.
    11. Replace old, worn out deck lines and bungees.
    12. Add deck lines to your touring kayak if you don’t already have them.
    13. Clean and “un-stink” your neoprene wetsuit and booties with Wetsuit/Drysuit Shampoo and Mirazyme from McNett.  You can also use “Sink the Stink”.
    14. Check your bulkheads for leaks and reseal them if necessary.
    15. Join a paddling club.
    16. Find an internet paddling group that you can exchange messages with.
    17. Start an exercise program to keep in shape for paddling next year.  Do some stretching for flexibility, aerobic activity for the heart/lungs, and weight training to improve muscle strength, especially in the core and upper body.
    18. Watch some good kayak DVD’s for instruction and entertainment.
    19. Read as many good instructional books as you can.  You never know what new information you might pick up!
    20. Start researching your options for taking classes or attending a symposium next season.
    21. Find better ways to store the things you need on the water.  You want to reduce deck clutter and prevent everything from falling out of the cockpit in the event of a wet exit.
    22. Assemble a repair kit for your kayak.  Be sure to include hardware to replace anything on your kayak that might break or get lost.
    23. Make a quick-release contact tow for your kayak.
    24. Plan for the equipment purchases you need to make before next season.  Do some research when deciding what to buy.
    25. Buy or put together a first aid kit to carry with you on all paddling trips.
    26. Take a first aid and CPR course.  Consider taking one of the wilderness first aid course which are much more applicable to paddlers and campers.
    27. Get the Ben Lawry DVD on rolling and work on your “dry land” rolling technique over the winter.
    28. Look for an opportunity to get some rolling and rescue practice in a pool.
    29. Organize your gear so that you can get on the water more quickly and easily (see the October 2001 issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine).
    30. Attach a wiffle golf ball to the grab loop of your sprayskirt to make it easier to find with gloved hands or eyes closed underwater when you have to wet exit your kayak.
    31. Practice using a signal mirror.
    32. Check the expiration dates on your flares and replace, if needed. (If you paddle on Lake Michigan and you don’t have flares, get them.)
    33. Learn how to use a GPS.
    34. Label all your gear with name, address, and/or phone number so that it can be returned to you when you lend it out or accidentally leave it behind somewhere.
    35. Make a rescue sling to carry with you at all times (see August 2001 issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine).
    36. Practice packing for an extended camping trip.
    37. Build a kayak over the winter.  Depending on your skill and comfort level, you can do it yourself with a kit or take a class somewhere (see “Paddling Resources & Links” on this website and go to “Building Your Own Kayak”).
    38. Visit local paddling shops and commiserate with other paddlers who are longing for warmer weather.
    39. Go out for coffee on cold Sunday mornings with fellow paddlers who are itching to get out on the water, too.
    40. Keep reading this blog.

Stay sane!


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