gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for May 2009

“Check the boat!” (and other things your steersman might say)

May 26, 2009 @ 14:05 By: gordon Category: Dragonboats

I originally wrote this for my dragonboat team, the Algonquin College Singapore Slings, and I thought it might be of interest to a wider audience.

If you’ve been dragonboating for a couple of years, you’ve probably heard your steersman or caller issue instructions such as “check the boat”, “all up”, “right side draw” or “let it run”. And you (hopefully) know what the person wants you to do. But, if you’re new to dragonboating, it might be Greek to you.

So, to help demystify things, here’s a list of the most common things your steersman is likely to say and what they want you to do.

When they say… They really mean…
All up! Get ready to start paddling and listen for the next instruction, which is usually…
Take it away. Start paddling.
Let it run. Stop paddling and let the boat coast. Be sure not to drag your paddle in the water.
Hold the boat Stick your paddle in the water, but don’t take a stroke. This may not seem like it does a lot, but it has the effect of holding the boat in place. Usually heard on the start line when the boat is barely moving.
Left side draw
Right side draw
Paddlers on the specified side of the boat should turn the blades of the paddles 90 degrees and pull the water towards them. This is usually done at the start line to help position the boat for the start of the race. You’ll sometimes hear it when pulling up to the dock and the boat’s a little too far from it. Everyone drawing should do it at the same rate so that the boat doesn’t rock too much.
Ready! Ready! Given on the start line, paddlers should bury the blades of their paddles and be ready to start in a few seconds.
Check the boat! This is probably the only command that can be given at any point, usually without warning. Similar to hold the boat, the goal is to stop the boat moving as quickly as possible. Stick the blade in the water and hold it in place. (Note: It does not mean to make sure there aren’t any holes in the boat or that you’re in the right boat!)
Check hard! Almost identical to check the boat, you add a little more resistance so that you’re almost (but not quite) paddling backwards.
Beer me! One of the most important commands a steersman will issue. The nearest paddler should immediately provide the steersman with a properly chilled beer.
Back it up
Back it off
Start paddling in reverse. This should be done in time so that the boat doesn’t rock too much.

In general, when you’re paddling, whether it’s paddling easy during a practice, drawing at the start line or during the race, all the paddlers should be hitting at the same time. If even one person is out a bit, the paddlers around them will tend to get off beat.

Happy paddling!

Weekend recap

May 25, 2009 @ 23:59 By: gordon Category: General, Out and about, Photography

IMG_0849 I had a lot of fun this past weekend. Saturday started with a dragonboat practice followed by brunch with some of the other people on the Algonquin College Singapore Slings. Once sated, I did a bunch of errands that saw me drive back and forth across Ottawa from place to place. Tiring of that, I headed out on my bike along the Ottawa River path to the top of the locks and into the Market for gelato at Piccolo Grande on Murray. Happily full of a double-chocolate gelato that had big chunks of white chocolate in it, I headed back towards the Cenotaph to check out the festivities related to the Ottawa Race Weekend.

To say the area was crowded would be a bit like saying the Pacific Ocean has a lot of water in it.

Most of the roads were closed to cars because they were packed with people. People who had just finished a race, people who were getting ready to race, people who were in a race, people who were watching the races and people who were trying to figure out how they could get to where they wanted to be given all the road closures and people.

A friend of mine was doing the 10 km race, so I found a good vantage point near the first turn and waited for the race to start.


Steering the Algonquin College Singapore Slings

May 22, 2009 @ 15:55 By: gordon Category: Dragonboats

Once again this year, I am steering a dragon boat in the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival for the Algonquin College Singapore Slings.  And like the other teams in the festival, we’re taking part in the pledge challenge raising money that will go to support the charities selected by the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation. These charities do very important work in the Ottawa area and are worth supporting.

If you’d like to help my team reach its pledge target and thus help the various charities selected by the ODBF, please consider clicking on the link at the top of the right column, and sponsoring me.  All donations of $20 or more automatically receive a tax receipt and you can request one for donations of less than $20.

Many thanks for reading this and thinking about it.  And a special thank you if you do sponsor me. 🙂

One more lesson learned from balloon chasing

May 20, 2009 @ 01:02 By: gordon Category: Amateur radio

One more lesson learned from the recent balloon chasing is that finding a large pink foam cube in the middle of a field isn’t as easy as it sounds, even if you’re within a couple of dozen metres of it.  This might be mitigated by installing a noise maker in the payload package might make them easier to find. If they had something like a piezo electric beeper, or the siren from a smoke detector, in them that sounded for 5 seconds every minute it would give you something to home in on when the payload is on the ground/in a tree/floating downstream/whatever.

Weight being a concern when you’re launching things to the edge of space, such a noise maker would have to be very miserly in terms of its power requirements so that the existing power supply could be used rather than requiring a bigger – and thus heavier – one.

Lessons learned from chasing balloons

May 17, 2009 @ 20:49 By: gordon Category: Amateur radio

IMG_9076 Last weekend, I headed out with Darin (VE3OIJ) to help chase a pair of weather balloons that were being launched from Perth by the Lanark Space Agency (LASA). One of the balloons, VE3LCA-11, had a payload with a GPS, camera, temperature sensor and an APRS beacon. It’s goal was to take pictures over the course of its flight for the Grades 5 and 6 students from St. John’s School it was being launched for.

The launch was well-attended by students, parents, visitors to the farmers’ market and many of the chase teams. After the obligatory group photo with the students and the balloon, they did a count down and released the balloon and its payload. It disappeared into the clouds about 4500’ AGL, so we watched its progress on the display they had set up for people to watch.

Meanwhile, the second balloon, VE3REX-11 (aka LASA 4), was prepped for launch. It’s goal was to set an altitude record for amateur weather balloons. It’s payload consisted solely of a small GPS and an APRS beacon, which weighed less than the first balloon. It was launched off in due order, so we headed off, stopping only to buy some homemade cookies from the farmers’ market.

We decided to chase VE3LCA-11 since its payload needed to be retrieved more than VE3REX-11’s. IMG_9062



Updating the list

May 08, 2009 @ 00:54 By: gordon Category: General

Back in October, I wrote about the cars I’ve owned over the years. At the time, the list consisted of a 1987 Eurosport, a 1991 Pontiac Firefly and a 2002 GM Tracker. Well, it’s time to update the list.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the tailpipe on the Tracker was a bit loose, so I visited Active Green + Ross on Bank Street who worked up an interim solution for me for free. That was meant to tide things over until I had a more permanent repair made. Replacing everything from just behind the catalytic converter to the tailpipe would probably have cost a couple of hundred dollars. The Tracker was also due for a brake job and an alignment (several hundred more dollars). And I’d been thinking that the battery was probably due for replacement after seven years of service.

That’s about when I stopped adding up things and started looking at new vehicles.


Geocaching milestones

May 03, 2009 @ 12:44 By: gordon Category: Geocaching

I went geocaching yesterday afternoon for the first time in a couple of months and I hit a neat milestone with the last cache I found. GAG9 – One for the birds (GCYJ1E) by model12 & Aldy marked the 450th geocache I’ve found. It also marked the 350th geocache I’ve found in the province of Ontario.

The geocaching gods were taunting me as I homed in on it, because when I was just a few metres away from the cache my GPS receiver suddenly indicated the cache was 160m away, +/- 186m and continued to jump around. I thought that perhaps I’d lost a clear view of the sky, but the satellite screen seemed to indicate it had locked on to 6 or 8 satellites with strong signals. When I moved a bit farther away, the GPSr settled down and I found the cache quickly.

It was nice getting out caching again.  Life has been so busy, or the weather has been so sucky, that I just haven’t had time to seek any geocaches. However, things are less busy (I think) and the weather is more conducive to being outside that I’ll probably start caching a little more regularly.