Investing in Life

Stock markets rise and fall. Instability is a worry for many and uncertain futures leave many questioning where to invest. How do I secure my future? How do I make sure everything is ok?

Money isn't the only thing you can invest.

Admittedly, I was late to the party for Mumford & Sons. Sometimes new music doesn't get as much time as it deserves. I've been burned too many times (freaking Nickelback). I gave them a try, liked them and downloaded their  "Live at Red Rocks" album. I like all of it but one particular song haunts me. Literally. I'll wake up in the middle of the night with the lyrics singing in my head. I'll be at my desk and bubbling up to the top of my consciousness come the same words. The song is "Awake My Soul". The slow bellowing of the title lyrics is bad enough to cause a haunting but the bridge inspires and taunts me.

"In these bodies we will live. In these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

Let that wash over you for a minute.

You get one go. One life. Whatever you choose to love is what your life will ultimately be about. Chase the dollar, that's your legacy. Stand for family, your legacy is that. But it's not just what you want it to be. It's where you actually INVEST your love.

I think of guys like Jim Dolan and Dave Potts with Heroes on the Water. That is a true investment and no doubt part of their lives.Every conversation I have ever had with these gentlemen has been about helping our wounded soldiers get on the water. The healing that this organization does is a monumental example of investing in others.

For me I struggle with irons in the fire. I have a lot of them. Do I love my 8-5 job? Not really. I invest time there to pay the bills. I do that out of love because I want to provide for my family that I love so much. It's an investment, albeit a small one.

My real love investment comes packaged as time. My kids ask very little of me except for time. I am blessed that they love the outdoors as much as I do. Sharing time on the water with them is a huge investment I want to make more deposits into. Seeing my  nine year old son manhandle a kayak in rough winds and grinning ear to ear while doing so radiates a deep warmth in the caverns of my soul. It awakens me to love and life. It combines two strong loves to create what I hope to be my legacy one day.

When it is all said and done, where will you invest your life?

The Stability Myth: Standing in a Kayak

Standing is the new thing.

In kayaks that is. And frankly, it's not all that new. As people flock to the sport they see commercials, ads, pictures and videos of people standing up and fishing from a variety of kayaks. I've seen almost every major manufacturer release an ad for one of their kayaks where someone is standing up and fishing. It's the hot issue. If a company doesn't have a kayak that they sell for standing and fishing they are behind the times.

All that being said, these pictures and videos can be misleading. The design of the kayak, its hull, its width and the water conditions all play into stability so that a fisherman can stand. Not enough people, especially those shopping for a "stand and fish" kayak are looking at the biggest variable: the fisherman.

People are all built differently. People also have different levels of balance. I can stand and fish on an Outback, a Slayer, a Coosa, a Ride, a Commander and a ton of others but that doesn't mean you can.

Drew Gregory from Jackson has jumped and spun around on the deck of at least one Jackson in a video. Here is the not-so-secret secret. Drew is a compact, fit guy who works in the outdoors and is in great shape. His balance is impeccable. I've seen more than a couple of people turtle a Jackson. It's more than just kayak specs that make a kayak standable. It's you too.

But wait! I can hear some of you who have been watching a different set of videos. "I'm built more like Chad Hoover and he can stand in all of the Wilderness kayaks" you say. Well, yes, Chad can. Did you also know he is retired from the Navy? I think he may have the boats, balance and water thing down better than Joe from down the street. Wildys can turtle too. All of them can.

I've seen a Hobie Pro Angler turtle and not in the ocean. It was on an calm day on a small lake. It's about the fisherman too, not just the kayak.

So what am I saying?

If you want to stand, here are some things to think about.

If you are standing on a sit on top kayak, you have to balance from your ankles up. That is a lot of core balance for a lot of people. If you are big in the shoulders or big in the belly, this is going to prove more difficult. Slight framed folks and shorter folks will generally have an easier time with this.

Think about balancing a broom handle, vertically on your palm. It's difficult, right? Add a tennis ball to the middle of the broom handle or to the top and it becomes more difficult. Weight across your body that is not evenly distributed (beer gut) will be more difficult to keep in balance when the balance point is further away.

So how do we make it easier? A few things.

Having a wider platform to stand on makes this easier. It is easier to balance when your feet are able to be shoulder width apart and slightly more. Most adults have a shoulder width wider than 20" so a deck that only allows 20" with a total kayak width of 28" will be more difficult to balance on. As the width of the total kayak gets wider, even if the deck isn't as wide it will become easier to balance. The ideal situation is a wide deck and a wide kayak. Finding a 28"+ wide deck with a 32" or larger total width will help.

Also consider the seat. More people that I have seen turtle have done so when getting into or out of the seat. A seat that is up off the deck will be easier to gain your balance. Is it easier to stand up from the floor or from a chair? The chair, right? Keep this in mind when shopping. Even a couple of inches gained is a big change.

What if we could change the balance point from your ankles? You can! The problem with kayaks is in most circumstances as they get wider, they get slower and more sluggish to paddle (the obvious exceptions are pedal and motorized kayaks). This is where hybrid kayaks come in. The Commander from Wilderness Systems and the Ultimate from Native are hybrid kayaks that are part sit in and part sit on. They look more like a canoe than a kayak to some (though the hull design is different). When you stand in one of these kayaks you have a sidewall to brace your leg against. This raises the balance point from your ankle to almost your knee. It's almost as if you've made yourself shorter. The amount of body you now have to balance is lessened and the 31" wide Commander offers more stability to most people than a 33" wide sit on top. Not only that but it generally paddles faster as well in the longer models.

Now that you are either confused, angry or nodding your head in agreement, let me offer a suggestion. If you want to stand and fish out of the kayak you are shopping for, stop looking at marketing material. Find a demo day near you or a get together or Boondoggle and go try to do this yourself. Find out how hard or easy it is to stand in all of the models you are looking at. Demo. Demo. Demo. If you absolutely can't do that and you have to shop online by specs and videos only, look at total width and width of the cockpit. The bigger they are the more stable. Is it a guarantee that you can stand? No. Will it be more likely? Yes.

It will almost always be easier to stand in a kayak that is 40" wide than one that is 20" wide. Just keep in mind the balance points and demo if at all possible and you should be good to go.

If you want to stand in a kayak, make sure you can before you buy it!

Replacing a Broken Wilderness Systems Seat Back


Sometimes parts break. Pictured below is the seat from my Wilderness Systems Commander 140. Moving back and forth from the Captain's Perch to the seat I didn't pay enough attention and a couple of times flopped down on the seat back instead of the seat and it eventually took its toll. I blame myself. When you don't pay attention and get in a hurry, stuff can break. My Commander doesn't qualify for warranty and I didn't see much in the way of tutorials of replacing a broken seat back so I figured, what the heck. I ordered the parts from harmonygear.com and the next day it was sitting on my door step. I ordered the seat back and the cover for it. Total with shipping was less than $25. The back offered as a replacement is bigger which I thought was a nice bonus.  To do this, reusing hardware you'll need a flat head screwdriver and a Phillips head screwdriver. That's it.


My broken seat back

The first thing you need to do is get the seat back adjustment straps loose. On the front of the seat near the corners are two Phillips head bolts. They are holding the straps in place. They will have a washer on each side and a lock nut. Remove and save these parts.

The front connection point for one of the straps

The lock nut and washer holding the strap

Make sure you save these parts

Now you have the seat back loosened from the front and if it's broken, it's completely loose. Now you need to pull the straps through the back of the rest. You will be removing the adjustment strap and the bungee. Hang on to these as well.

Seat back removed with straps still in

The straps once removed with bungee
Now you need to remove the connection point where the back connects to the seat base. You can do it with a flat headed screw driver. On the right hand side is a plug and spring that will retract with some pressure. It's like the spring loaded toilet paper holders. The left side is stationary and won't move. Put a little pressure moving inward with the screwdriver and pull it out and away from the base. Be careful because the spring inside will make a run for it. Save the plug end and spring as well.

The plug and spring with pressure being applied

The plug and spring you need to save

The old seat back now completely removed

The seat base free of the back

The new seat back on the left
At this point you should have only invested about three minutes in this process. It's time to put the new back on! You will need to lay the seat back facing down with the molded pivot point to the left. Take the tightening straps and the bungee and thread the through with the loose ends coming out of the back of the seat back.

Straps threaded through
Now you'll want to put the cover on the seat back. Make sure the pivot point goes through the strap so it will be behind the seat.

Cover now on the seat back
Carefully place the spring and plug from the old seat into the new seat back and pop the seat back into the seat base. Once you do that you'll want to loosen the seat back straps as much as possible and then reconnect them to the base using the bolts, nuts and washers you saved earlier.

Inserting the spring and plug

Loosening the straps for reattachment

Straps reattached

Tighten the straps a bit and attach the bungees and voila! You did it.

Finished seat with new back