Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Key West Car Choices

One of my themes this year when blogging is to keep an eye out for alternatives to our oil dependent livestyle. While in Key West recently, I was impressed with the number of simple electric vehicles being used. Most were in the 'For Rent' category, but not all. Private citizens are making the switch to them as well. Certainly a place like Key West is idea for such vehicles. It is warm, flat and totally contained on a small island only a few miles in length. A full battery charge would easily last several days of use. Another plus is most of the technology is well known from the golf cart industry, easy to maintain and relatively recyclable. Adapting a kayak roof rack to fit would also be a simple matter...

Perhaps the downside was the almost total lack of visible solar electric panels either on the cars or anywhere else for recharging the batteries. Given that most electricity in Florida is produced via carbon based means, the actual benefits of driving these cars is not as great as it would appear at first glance. Still, people using them do get the idea that a 'real' car is not necessarily the drudgery they might have thought it was going to be and, by itself, that's a move forward.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Key West Schooners

Although not intended primarily as a paddling trip, my recent trip to the southern USA did get me out to the end of the Florida Keys. If you have never been to that part of the world, it's definitely worth seeing for several reasons.

One of those reasons is the chance to go sailing on a schooner. Once a common sight along the east coast of North American, not many still exist, especially ones which will take a person out for a day's sail on the water. In Key West, there are several schooners available for half and full day trips to outer keys. I didn't sail on the one in the photo above, but did go in another similar boat. It featured a 'swing-keel' which enabled it to be sailed into water as shallow as 28 inches! We didn't try it, but the easy motion and highly variable rig made sailing these boats lots of fun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just Before I Leave...

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard an interview with someone who was instructing some children on safety in the pool. At first I thought it was the usual stuff about pool safety, but it turned out to be much more interesting. The children we fully dressed and being asked to do various things like try swimming and then to try getting out of the pool by clambering up slippery slabs of foam. The safety feature here was to simulate falling into a lake covered in ice. It was a great exercise in teaching the children what might happen and what techniques work and which ones don't.

Throughout the program, the instructor kept referring to "life jackets". The term "PFD" was never used and I thought that was odd. Then it hit me. "Life jackets" can save your "life". To a child, a "PFD" isn't anything meaningful, because there is no meaningful content in the three letters. Even knowing that the letters stand for "Personal Flotation Device" doesn't convey a lot of meaning to a child and probably to many adults.

So I won't be wearing my "PFD" from now on. I'm switching to my "life jacket"! Maybe we all ought to!

Please note the entire Ckayaker staff will be on leave for a few weeks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

SPOT, The Home View

Most people by now have heard about the SPOT location device and have some idea of how it provides a map location to the people one selects to receive it. Obviously this device is seen as a real bonus for those roaming in isolated areas where safety and possible rescue is an issue. Those at home, can follow along and be assured that all is well - or not.

In the picture above, a participant in the on-going Everglade Challenge is using a SPOT device to keep those at home informed on her progress during the race. I'd not seen the SPOT information from the receiving end before and was amazed at it's clarity and usefulness. It would appear in this case that location 'spots' are being sent to the SPOT site every 10 minutes or so resulting in a trace of the route taken by the paddler. Fascinating!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Small Rivers Count

When we hear about alternate ways of producing electrical power, North Americans tend to turn up their noses using the excuse that only oil and perhaps hydro can really produce the goods. What we miss is the concept that to make an ocean, you need many rivers, some big and some small. With that in mind, I'm in the process of adding a small 'river' of power to my Teardrop trailer's electrical power system. I'm thinking that by doing so I'll be able to increase my self-sufficiency by enough to spend a week or more - depending on the sunlight and my consumption - off the oil-fired grid. Not total independence, but a little bit more.

With that goal in mind, I'm going to put a 50 watt solar panel on the roof feeding into a large deep-cycle battery. This will be linked into the various circuits feeding lights and other DC items including a small inverter for powering up my computer and charging my video camera batteries which I cannot solar charge any other way.

• • • • •

On another topic, Canada's government passed Bill C-10 with few changes. This is the bill which is supposed to provide economic stimulus in the current crisis, yet it is loaded down with non-stimulus items. Thus Canada will see the removal of protection for its navigable rivers, the denial of pay equity to women, the loss of millions of dollars to offshore tax havens by big corporations, the destruction of a functioning security market in Québec. This list goes on and on. The omnibus Bill is staggering under the weight of items the Conservatives have been unable to get passed previously. Hopefully the Senate will split off these non-stimulus items before the Bill becomes the law of the land or the government will do so before sending the Bill to the Senate. As it exists, Bill C-10 represents a nasty pill for Canadians from a government which in the past has had a record of not spending most of the money it has promised and which is slowly sliding into a backward do nothing, go nowhere lump of a place. Brain drain anyone?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bad Day At The Feeder

Daily events at our bird feeders don't often rise much beyond the benign. That changed this week with the arrival of a new bird, seen here at the base of the spruce tree.

A sharp-shinned hawk! As you can well imagine the sudden arrival of this new visitor has not been without incident. A female pine grosbeak has been the first victim. Hopefully she will be the last. While hawks have their place, I'm sure, they don't get along with the feeder crowd the way I see it. They should find their own feeding ground...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snowshoe Mountain - The Video

Living in a cyber-world which hangs by a slender wire from the larger world beyond my doorstep is not my idea of fun, but there are a few tradeoffs. For one I can ski and snowshoe from my front steps and be in the wilderness within seconds. I don't have to put up with traffic or annoying neighbours. Well, you get the picture. It's pretty tranquil and bucolic around here and, I suppose, that's why some people are giving up their party-line phones for touch-tones. Internet, of course, is strictly dial-up and as it is everywhere, no matter what kind of service you have, expensive.

I like the idea of 'the information highway' and like all highways, feel it should be state supported and maintained. Of course, it isn't and so we end up with a patchwork system which is good in some places and non-existent in others. Thankfully, I don't live in Canada's arctic where taking a trip can run you a second mortgage. Imagine doing that a couple times a year!

All of this to say, I've finally managed to upload my 'short' video to Vimeo. I sneaked into my brother's house in town and logged on to his hi-speed. Instead of a multi-hour upload, the deed was done in 6 minutes. Now the world can enjoy my backyard in much the same way as I do. Well, almost. It's not really my backyard. It's an hour's trip on a real state built highway.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ilulissat Online

Most of us will probably not get the chance to visit Greenland and even fewer will be paddling traditional qajait along it's magnificent fjords. A pity. In an ideal world, we ought to all be setting time and money aside to make the pilgrimage to our holy site and give due homage.

All is not lost however. A new internet site has been created for us non-pilgrims! It's called Ilulissat Icefjord. There's a lot to see and do on the site including a fly-over video. Have a look! You'll probably be even more interested after your virtual visit in saving up for your real trip. Why not drop down to the Ilulissat Qajaq club while you're there?