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Blog #188

David & Joan





   I've been sick for the past week, the weather has been wet and windy and I've been obsessed with boat building lately.  That's my excuse for not exercising during this Easter break.  I did get out in a kayak yesterday. however.  About ten percent of Mogadore Reservoir was covered in ice or slush.  The ice knocked my island down, I figured it would. 

   I've always noticed that the biggest island at the reservoir has a section of land that looks very narrow.  I've also wondered if it was possible to portage a kayak without getting out, like a lungfish.  I've crossed over ice many times but never dry land.  It turns out that the narrow section on the big island is only about three feet across, a foot high and about 30 feet long.  This section has a few big trees and lots of little bushes growing on it.  On the other side is a swamp that connects to the other side of the lake.  Google Earth shows that this three foot shortcut saves a quarter mile of paddling.


I had to hit the land with enough speed to drive the seven foot nose of my boat up onto the land.  On my first attack the nose dug into a root.


The second run went well; I was able to grab brush and pull myself and the boat up onto the dry land.


Here I am on top.


Down the other side.


Where I came from.


The way out.


Swamp Hike


   Since we are not traveling on this Spring Break, I have been giving the girls daily little “adventures”. One day this week I took them to an art gallery and today we took them to a swamp.


   At the end of our street are a dozen or so acres of undeveloped, mucky, briary woods which the girls have been dying to explore. Today they donned their Carharts and tall boots, hats and gloves and we set out. The swamp was everything they had hoped. It was sloppy, smelled of decaying leaves, and filled with pricker bushes that pulled at their hats and coats as they walked. We found the bleached bones of possibly a deer and had to build our own bridge out of fallen branches. We walked as far as we could before coming to the fence on the edge the horse farms. Round trip was only a little over a mile but it took almost an hour and a half, but the girls would have stayed much longer. I’m sure we will “hike the swamp” again, someday.










Kiddiyak Update

  It's ready to cover.  I have about 40 hours of labor and $190 of materials into it.  With varnish and the rudder system it now weighs 17 pounds (if our scale is correct).  Since the last post I've varnished the wood, lashed/tied the joints with Kevlar string, built a rudder system and started working on a paddle.




  Note the nearly invisible polycarbonate rudder:


  The black straps are the rudder pedals.




Hall Family Website


Blog #187

David & Joan



Happy Easter

(Or: Never Underestimate the Power of CANDY!)

  After one Easter party and three egg hunts, the Hall girls were inundated with more candy and sugar than they had seen since Halloween. We had become a candy free zone during Lent so Easter morning must have seemed like a Willy Wonka dream for the girls. We let them indulge some, but kept their consumption in check. At 11:00 last night Anni woke up crying and called for me. After calming her down, I told David that she was afraid that something had “happened” to her candy. With assurance the basket was safely on the dining room table and would be waiting for her in the morning, Annika went back to sleep.

  The Easter Bunny hid the baskets well this year. Annika’s basket was in the kitchen pantry, Brigitta’s in the living room trash can and Svea’s in the garage. Obviously anyone who has seen our garage knows that it must have taken Svea the longest to find her basket. In fact, we could have set it in the middle of the garage floor and it wouldn’t have been easy to spot.


These first two pictures were taken at the GFS Easter Party.







Portraits - Easter 2008



The portraits were taken to update our living room frames, right now we still have Christmas! We usually take quite a few pictures before we get one that works well. David and I expend so much energy just trying to get the girls to smile/laugh that we only manage to update the frames several times per year.











This one was severely overexposed, but after some experimentation it became my favorite of the shoot.



  I've never seen a factory made kid-sized kayak.  A four foot tall 45 pound child is way too small to effectively paddle an adult sized boat.  Last year I let Svea paddle the Sprinter; this boat is four times as long as she was tall and it significantly outweighed her.  She had fun but really had trouble since everything was so oversized.  She was at the mercy of the wind and eventually my tow line.


  So, I'm building a little skin-on-frame kayak for the girls.  I intended on starting this project last summer, and bought five one-by-four by ten foot cedar boards.  The boards, waiting to become a kayak, sat in the shed until Friday.  Although I have thought about design and construction methods for years, I didn't even begin to sketch this boat until Friday.  I wanted to keep this kayak small, light, relatively stable, relatively fast and above all I wanted to make it exceptionally easy to enter and quick to build. 


  The baidarka hanging in our living room is 17.5 feet long, weighs 75 pounds and is too small for me.  Eskimos built their kayaks relative to their body proportions.  Measurements for every frame member was measured by the paddler's finger-span, or elbow to opposite outstretched fingertip, etc.  The builder of my baidarka had shorter legs than I do.  The diameter of the hoop/hole and location of its front and rear supports is such that I cannot enter the boat without hyper extending my legs.  I also cannot bend my legs what-so-ever while seated.  Entering a holed kayak involves stepping into the boat and sliding one's feet forward while gripping the sides of the hoop to lower oneself into the boat.  The legs must be straight while entering.  This is difficult to do from a dock and nearly impossible to do from the water.  With my plastic and fiberglass boats I've always entered the cockpit from the shore and scooted into the water, exiting first involves running the boat onto the stable shore.  A cloth skinned boat will only survive this so many times. 


  I wanted to make their boat easy to enter from a dock or shallow water.  The solution was too make the hoop significantly bigger.  I wanted to make the hoop big enough that even I could enter the boat from the water; this would ensure that the girls would never outgrow it.  There are many styles and designs of Inuit kayaks.  Variables effect the boat's stability, speed, cargo capacity, stealth, maneuverability, tracking, seaworthiness, easy of entry, crosswind profile and weight.  This boat is not patterned after any particular Inuit tribe design, but is an amalgamation of many design features.  The hoop is glue laminated from eight pieces of wood, including plywood.  The front and rear vertical boards also are glued.  Everything else is held together only by wooden pegs and lashing; Eskimo style.  I've also ordered some Kevlar strands/string; I'm not happy with either of the strings/cords I've used so far.  The Inuits built their kayaks to be semi flexible so that they would work/twist with the waves.  I don't think glue was an option for them, but I think if I build another one I'll save much time gluing and pegging the the frame together.


  As shown below with floorboards, the ten foot boat weighs 16 pounds.  One fourth of that weight is the hoop and floorboards.  As I type Svea is putting a coat of sealer on the wood; that should add a bit of weight as well.  I have a few yards of aircraft Dacron fabric on order.  I expect the fabric and fabric glue to increase the boat's weight by about two pounds and the sealer/paint also may add a couple of pounds.  Today I'll build a polycarbonate rudder.  The rudder hinge is aluminum, the lines will be made of fishing line and the rudder "pedals" will be nylon straps.  I'm hoping to keep it under 20 pounds, but it may end up around 21 or 22 pounds.


  I've devoted about 28 hours to the the project so far.  This includes design, building a simple hull form, drawing a few patterns, tweaking ill performing tools and sanding.  The last eight of these hours were spent on the hoop and partial lashing work.





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Blog #187




Happy Birthday Annika


     On Tuesday we celebrated Annika's third birthday.  Her theme was Boowa & Kwala who are her favorite Internet characters from  They were Brigitta's favorite too.  Their little songs are catchy and fun; the entire family has gotten a kick out of them for years.

Annika had been looking forward to this day for weeks.  She had requested pizza in the porch, cake in the dining room and presents in the living room.  Not a bad party planner for just being three.







Her party was small with just our family and one neighborhood friend, but it was enjoyable.



Happy Birthday David


     Svea, Brigitta and Annika made dinner for my birthday on Thursday; they did a marvelous job.  Joan baked a great blueberry and strawberry pie.  As is often the case, the silly picture came out the best.




Brigitta sewed her first sewing machine project; a tiny pillow for my birthday.


Joan captured one of my favorite father-daughter pictures ever:


On Wednesday Annika danced with Brigitta at GFS; they really know how to have fun.


Wednesday also brought an ice storm.


Last Sunday morning I skied 110 laps around the house; that's 10 miles.  In the evening Annika and Brigitta wanted to ski as well.



I put Joan's skis and boots on Brigitta; the skies are a bit too big for Joan and everything was way too big for Bri.  She double poled six laps anyway.



 Within 24 hours all of this snow melted!



Friday morning it began to snow; for most of the past 36 hours it has been snowing.  We have well over a foot of snow; I'm just loving it!


This afternoon I packed down a new ski loop.  I repacked it after dark.  This is the first chance I've had to get the Ski-Doo in some really good powder.  What a blast it is.  On hard packed snow the machine keeps flat and has a turning radius of about 60 feet, worse if it's icy.  In deep powder, however, I can lean it to one side about 45 degrees and turn it on a dime.


Cold, covered with snow and ice....but oh so happy.


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Blog #186



Happy Birthday Nana


     It's hard to believe that Nana is 85; that sound so much older than she really is.  Here she is opening off a pot holder that Svea made.  The girls baked a batch of carrot muffins for Nana; they were quite good despite the fact that they made a terrible mess of the kitchen.




Annika Starts Kindergruppe

   On Friday Annika officially started dance practice with GFS Kindergruppe at age of two; just four days shy of her third birthday.  We are very proud of her; she paid attention to her teacher and was very well behaved.  Svea was her partner and also did a great job of showing Anni the routines. 



Leany Leans No More

   Leany the Snow Cat defied gravity and leaned more and more everyday. 



After school on Friday Brigitta put her out of her misery.  The picture with Annika below was taken a few hours before she was euthanized.




   The ski track has been in great shape this week.  Svea and Britta tried out the old kiddy skies.  The skis are fine for beginning but really are pretty awful.  They are fish-scale solid plastic short and wide with strap bindings.  They are made to strap onto any regular kid's boots. 



   On Wednesday night Brigitta gave them a try and actually was able to skate ski on them; somewhat.  I was pretty impressed because the boots, bindings and skies are about as bad as they could be and skate skiing is sort of difficult to learn even with proper equipment.  When I lived in Alaska I used to coach cross country skiing to six-year-olds through the Anchorage Junior Nordic League.  I believe that we had six hundred children in the program; I worked with the beginners of the youngest kids in the program.  From what I saw on Wednesday night, I think she would be ready to move on to a higher group in a short time if she had real equipment and were part of the program.  She also has become a pretty good ice skater.  Mostly, she's just aggressive and wants to go fast.  We ice skated at Kent State last weekend and I noted that she has improved this winter even though we haven't taken them to lessons.  Her only real skating this winter has been on our little 18' by 28' garden ice rink. 

   I've checked EBay for kids skate skis, poles, bindings and boots a number of times over the past year and have not found a thing.  There are a few online stores but they usually have very limited sizes and boot-binding systems and what they have in stock can be very pricey.  It's hard to risk spending over $200 on skate ski equipment when its not certain that we will even have snow to ski on, or that the kids will want to ski.  Skies, poles and bindings should last quite awhile.  Boots, however, need to fit and our kids keep growing.

   I'm partly writing this in hope that my Alaska family, friends and readers might be able to steer me toward ski swaps or other sources.  I hope to do some junior skate ski shopping while we visit Alaska this summer.  Unfortunately, my experience has shown that most sporting goods stores do not carry winter items in the summer...






It's due to melt tomorrow...  We'll have two days and nights above freezing with rain. 

Farewell ski loop.


Hall Family Website


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