Glenn Charles

Adventurer | Photographer | Connector

Today I am a Time Traveler with a Camera... Tomorrow, who knows

Questions From a Friend

My good friend Cynthia, owner of the Chicago Kayak Club sent me these questions which I thought were relevant to others so I wanted to share my answers with everyone.  Her email was:

"I am curious to know more about your daily routine - how you started out and what you settled into - did your diet change much? How far you paddled? What time you started/stopped- just wondering all that time on the water what did you learn that maybe ..."

As I discovered last year, when I set out on my North American expedition, routine becomes not only natural, but also critical.  The natural part is probably obvious to most; you are doing the same thing over and over, and ritual/habit is just a natural human phenomenon.  However, the 'critical' aspect may not be so intuitive.  The habits and the routine that we develop helps us to safely go about the mundane details of the long distance trek.  Making camp, breaking camp, cooking, sleeping, un-packing, packing all have their own little micro routines.  For me, their is then a Macro routine which guides me through my entire daily activity. 

One of the most critical outcomes of these routines is a function of time, that is being able to accomplish your tasks in a timely manner and the other is loss prevention.  Some people might think that hey, your are just out paddling, you have all the time in the world to do these tasks.  Well, the reality is that you often don't have all the time, and in the instances when time is really critical (Storms/Tides/Safety), you really need to rely on routine to get you through those tasks quickly and efficiently.  Loss prevention is a really huge deal to me. I believe that if you don't have an efficient routine, then you begin to loose things.

For short trips, the loss of a lighter, or socks or even a spoon is probably not an issue.   If you are paddling with others, the loss of even bigger things can be overcome by the 'collective kit' of the group.  However when you are solo, and everything is already minimized, the loss of almost anything becomes an issue.  When you don't have a routine, it just becomes so easy to misplace things and then you loose them. For all of these reasons, I have really settled into the following basic routine, with very little day to day variation:

Morning -

  • Immediately break camp, pack bags other than what I am wearing and what I am paddling in
  • Everything goes into their respective Ikea Blue bag and is ready for loading
  • Eat breakfast/Drink my coffee
  • Wash dishes and make sure to replace everything into the correct bag ready for loading
  • Change clothes
  • Pack boat, which I could write a complete separate post on.  The short version is that everything goes into the exact same Ikea bag every day and everything goes into the exact same spot in the boat.  Not only does this make things quicker, but should I have violated one of my earlier rules, I immediately notice that something is not right and begin the search for the missing item.

Paddle

  • In general I have a daily mileage goal which does not change to often other than at the beginning of a trip or after a layover.  In general I am shooting for 20 plus miles a day.  The first month of a trip I shoot for 12-15 a day just to let my body get into the groove of things, this is also about the same mileage the day after an extended layover
  • I paddle for 3-4 hours in the morning, then take an hour lunch
  • I then do two afternoon paddles of 2-3 hours each with a 30 minute break, this allows me to get my miles in while still getting some rest during the day

Camp Setup

  • The boat is beached and pulled up slightly out of the breaking waves
  • The boat can be unloaded about 80% of the way into 3 Ikea Bags.  The Front hatch goes into one bag; the rear hatch goes into a second bag; the day hatch and a few misc. items goes into the third
  • If weather is an issue I immediately set up a tarp before I unload the boat, this way I have a dry place to change and store my gear.
  • If I am sleeping in the Hammock that is set up next as is the Bivy if that is going to be the nightly accommodation.  I sent my tent back to base camp on this trip, so the above are my two main sleeping options.
  • Dinner and sleep is next

My food/energy supply follows a similar 'routine' with very little deviation.  At the begiinning of the Atlantic trip I had delusions of eating a variety of food, but the reality is that has just not worked out.  I have managed to find a combination of food types and quantities which has powered me 1800 miles up the Atlantic Coast while maintaining my energy level and my muscle mass. Body fat is another issue :-)  For me, here is my daily diet:

  • Breakfast a- 1 1/3 cups of Oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins.  One cup of coffee
  • Snack 1 - About an hour into the paddle I eat a Cliff Bar, even if I am not hungry
  • Lunch - 3 hours into the paddle, unless it is way early.  Two Mission Style tortillas, each with 3-4 tablespoons of peanut butter and a generous helping of Honey.  I will add Nutella as well when I have it.  I finally saw big jars of Nutella so I am really stoked to get some of that as the small jars don't last long enough
  • Snack 2 - About an hour and half into the afternoon paddle - Trail mix, cliff bar, or fruit, just depends on what I have.  For a 6 hour paddle I will generally not need this snack, for anything longer I find it mandatory
  • Dinner - I carry food in a 'Pantry' style, that is, instead of pre-mixed meals, I have all the components and then decide each night what to have.  My dinner meals are made from the following:
    • 2/3 cup of some pasta (Elbow macaroni and Orzo are my faves)
    • 1/3 cup of Quinoa
    • Butter or Olive Oil
    • Garlic (goes in almost every meal, keeps the skeeters away...)
    • Vegetables when I have them (Peppers, Brussel Sprouts or  Avacado)
    • Cheddar cheese, generally just a good slice that can either be eaten straight or chopped up and added to the mix

This combination of food, while incredibly boring, has really worked for me.  I continue to experiment a little with other types of fresh things that can be added, although these are usually consumed within the first couple of days after a stop.  As far as vegetables go Brussel sprouts and un-ripe avocados last the longest in the warm hatches of the yak.  Everything else begins to go off way to quickly.

One of Cynthia's  question was about  what has changed.  For the most part the only thing I have changed on the food front is to add another 1/3 cup of pasta to my meals.  I am also pretty religious about adding Quinoa to every dinner, no matter what it is.  I think that the Quinoa has been the biggest change I have made from Alaska to this trip.  Other than that, not much else has changed other than mileage.  As I mentioned, after about a month or so, the mileage of my days really increased, especially in flat calm water.  Wind and current will have a negative affect on my daily mileage and I adjust my daily expectations based on the days conditions.

As for gear, well, everything breaks, and even with routines, stuff gets lost.  I have redundancy built into certain areas.  I carry a back up stove, a little Optimus canister stove that fits in your palm.  Not great for long term use, but in the event of a catastrophic stove failure (something I had), it will allow you to boil water and eat.  Speaking of which, I learned the importance of having a second pot.  When my stove failed, it was because a hole was formed in the bottom of my main pot, thus taking out both pot and stove.  Without a second pot/pan, I would have been in real trouble.

I now carry two lighters as I despise matches, they are just to difficult to work with in wet conditions.  What happens when you loose your spoon and have to figure out a way to eat?  Some of the simplest things are where I have duplicates, while in other areas I just have options should something break or be lost.  I also try and re-use everything that comes off of stuff.  An example is the neck gaskets to my dry suit.  When I replace a neck gasket I keep the old one and then it becomes material for patches.  My dry suit has developed a ton of small rips and tears that have compromised it's durability so I have all of these little patches applied throughout the suit. 

It all works for me right now, so if you have questions or comments, drop me a note or better, post a comment here and I will do my best to answer them.