Cross Country Ski boot challenge for large feet solved.

Well, after skiing all season with these boots last year, this year they have caused me trouble with my right foot from the start.  I contracted Morton’s Neuroma, which is where the nerves bunch up on the ball of a foot under the middle toes.   According to what I could find on the internet from medical sites, it is more regularly an ailment of women wearing narrow toed shoes.  My cross country boots – like most all of them – have a narrow toe box  and soon after starting skiing, my right foot started to feel like my socks were bunched up under the ball of my foot.  
John the town cobbler tried widening the toe, and that did help some, but there’s only so much room in the shoes – they barely fit lengthwise as it is, so not a whole lot can be done.
Cross country ski boot makers just don’t make boots for people with big wheels.  I need at least a 52 (size 16 or 17), and I was lucky to find the size 51’s I did get, but now they aren’t cutting it, either.
People with regular size feet like my wife and friends think “someone MUST make big boots, because all those big footed Norwegians or basketball players get their boots SOMEwhere”.  I welcome them to find me my size.  Even someone who custom makes boots who would make a pair for me.  And I’ll take a boot for any binding – nnn, sns, 3 pin – anything.  I’ve yet to find them.
First, I tried a technique I’d seen online.  I removed the soles of some old SNS boots, and then cut the boot in two near the heel.  The front part with the pin that fits in the binding I taped to my extra tuff boots.  It worked okay, but not great, and was uncomfortable on the soles of my feet because of the tracks on the bottom of the SNS sole.
So, I looked at an old pair of army cable bindings I bought when I was desperately looking for boots the last time I was looking, when my old 3 pin boots fell apart.  I searched online for how to mount them and use them.  I soon found a video of the Army base in Anchorage using the same bindings with bunny boots.  I got to work.
I mounted the bindings.  First I tired using xtra tuffs, and they worked okay, but it was hard to keep the toe in the toe box of the binding, even with the cable around the heel holding the boot forward.  I re-reviewed the Army video and noticed many of the soldiers had a strap across the toe box to keep the boot toe in.  I found some Army boots in closet I got somewhere and had never used, and these looked better than the extra tuffs.  I took them out today on some old llllllloooooooonnnng heavy cross country skis, and they worked okay.  But boy, are the bindings and boots heavy as compared to lighter cross country gear used on groomed trails.  
So, I came home and took the bindings off the old heavy skis and replaced the nnn bindings on my lighter, shorter skis I’ve been using all season with the cable bindings.  That was the ticket.  Lots better.

The only problem left with the bindings was that it took all the strength I had to pull the cable around the back of my boot.  In fact, I had to put the boots on first with both hands with the ski on my lap, and then when I got to the ski trail, slip out of the boots I had on into the boots attached to the ski.
I started looking for cable substitutes that I could make longer.  First I called a bike shop in town as the cable is similar to bike brake cable.  The shop keep said he might have something, so he was option 1.  Then I thought – the cable looks like a manual choke cable.  So I went to Western Auto and found a choke cable – but the inner sliding cable was just a thin wire that was not big enough.
Next I went upstairs and showed the clerk in the marine section what I was looking for as I had the cable with me.  He had just what I needed.  3/15 steel cable in a vinyl sheath.  And crimps to go on the end.  And crimpers to crimp the crimps!  I measured out the cable I’d brought plus another 3/4 inches, and headed home to try it.  It would work, but was still too tight to be able to put the boots on while I had them on my feet.  The cable set up cost less than $3, so I returned with the whole ski and binding and thought I’d experiment until it worked.  I moved up another inch and a half, and that one worked.  It was a little loose, but I realized I could shorten it, and add a little bit of beefiness to the cable, by doubling up on the crimps at each end, plus the bindings themselves had an adjustment nut that gave me maybe an inch to tighten.
So, now I have cross country ski bindings that will fit whatever boot I want to use in them.  They are a lot heavier than with the traditional set up, but I figure that’s only gonna make me work harder, which is the point of my skiing anyway.   
Here’s a photo of the ski binding, which will fit a size 16 Keen hiking boot.  The bindings are Ramer military cable ski bindings, which are not made anymore I don’t think, but can be found at times on Ebay or from Army Surplus Stores, etc.

March Boating with Larry

  • Larry sent me a text on Wednesday evening that he was going to Tenakee for a trip to pick up some lumber and did I want to go.  We’d had one of the biggest storms in a while raging on Wednesday, but by the evening when I got the text, it had mostly blown itself out and was supposed to lay down the next day. 
    Off we went the next morning about 6 am.  There was still a little chop heading down Chatham Strait, but it was laying down more and more the whole way.  By the time we got to Tenakee about 2.75 hours later, it was flat calm and blue skies.  I drove most of the way as Larry was working on little projects on the boat, or just enjoying having someone else drive.  
    While we waited at the Tenakee dock loading lumber and waiting for the lumber owners riding back with us, we watched a pair seals swimming in less than 10 feet of water in crystal clear water, right below us.  I had never seen a seal swimming this clearly before.  They move their back feet side to side, like a fish moves its tail, and not up and down, like a whale moves it’s tail.
    As we were getting ready to leave, a pair of humpback whales came past the point by the boat harbor.  I wasn’t sure if it was a cow and calf, but by the closeness of the two, it sure looked like it.  Seems real early for a cow and a calf to have swum from Hawaii to here already, but there they were.
    We loaded lumber and the couple and their 1 year old daughter and started back to Juneau.   Now it was flat calm in Chatham Strait.  Larry handed the wheel off to the father as the two of them talked, and I took a seat on the bench with my back against my survival suit on the back wall, and was soon put to sleep by the sunshine beaming through the windows. 
    We came all the way to the downtown Juneau dock, arriving at dark, and they decided they would unload in the morning.
    We awoke the next morning to another blizzard of sorts, which lasted til about noon.  We had threaded the weather needle perfectly.

February boating with Larry

I flew down to Craig with Larry, an old workmate, to help him bring back a boat he bought there. Brian and Ellen gave me a 135 hp outboard to replace my 115 for more power.  We spent a few days in Craig for Larry to understand the new boat and get any last minute items.

The container was in good shape. Except that some mice got in. At least 2 were dead in the bottom of a dry bucket. I have no idea why they went into a bucket they couldn’t get out of. They weren’t able to get into any food stuffs, and so maybe they were looking for food. I cleaned up their mess and then spray foamed around any line entering through the wall.

The water line was frozen under the floor in the container. I opened up the faucets and got to thinking about how to thaw the line.  I turned up the heat in the house and left. When I returned a few hours later, the temperature was up to 42 outside, and the pipe had thawed and the water was flowing. We left a trickle on the rest of our time there.

Mike, a former captain for this boat, helped Larry everyday to learn maneuvering with the twin jet motors, as well as the systems on the boat. We worked on the boat all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The boat was only making 12 kts, but the former skipper didn’t think it was out of the ordinary, although he hadn’t run the boat in years. We were a bit worried that it was going this slow without much of a load. We loaded the outboard on Sunday afternoon, had dinner with Brian and Ellen on Sunday evening, and left on Monday morning, anticipating a 10 hour run to Wrangell. Before we left the container, I turned off the water at the service port, then used the spigot below the house to drain all the lines in the house and hope that solves the line freezing problem in the future.

After several days of the boat only operating at about 12 knots, when we left town, we were soon up to about 20 kts as we sped north toward El Capitan Passage. Something must not have been right with the trim tabs or the cups jet units during the shake down cruises around Craig, but we don’t know what it was. The boat was running now as its builder thought it should.

We headed north and Larry had me drive while he went through one “issue” after another and was able to fix about all of them. Fans that blow engine heat up to the cabin were out of order, and he figured out one had a broken wire and bad switch and the other may have been a fuse. The winch that pulled up the bow door had a tripped breaker. The batteries that were for the electronics and accessories were not charging, and Larry found the switch near the engines that sends the alternator current forward and solved that. The boat was looking like a good rig the more we learned about her.

Larry was eager to see the sea otters that have populated the area since he lived in the area on his dad’s logging camp in the 1970’s. As we entered the Passage, we started to see otters. Lots of otters. Soon, they were old hat.

As we headed further north and then west, the passage got tighter and tighter. When we got to the narrowest section, it was at low tide, I was driving, going about 20 kts and could see the bottom. Larry was confident it was fine as he’d been though here in the 70’s so I stayed on step and we squirted out to the other side and into Sumner Strait and back to the bigger ocean. There was a little chop but no eventful seas or weather as we rounded the tip of Prince of Wales Island, skirted Zarembo Island, and coasted into Wrangell.

The boat’s builder in Wrangell was our first destination. My friend Dave Svendsen built this boat in 2007 for a logging company to haul loggers and equipment around Prince of Wales Island. Larry needed some information on the boat for some of his business ventures with the boat from Dave, which Dave didn’t have in his records, so we overnighted  in Wrangell first before heading to Juneau.

We spent the day with Dave and then went to dinner at Bob and Chris’s, where we spent the night. Chris cooked a turkey and we drank lots of home made wines and talked about our food gathering trips and canning from the past year.  I sent them some deer meat in November, and hope Bob can come over and hunt himself with Chris and his new knees next fall.

The next morning Kyle, Dave’s shop supervisor, and Dave did the measurements on the boat they needed to do, and Larry peppered them with questions about the boat’s operation and options he had for adding things to the boat for his business. We had hauled an old Cummins engine and 2 old transmissions this far, and Larry offered the transmissions up for the taking.  Dave and Kyle said they’d take them and Larry and I used the harbor crane to drop them at the city dock for Dave and Kyle to come get them, and we headed towards home about 1 pm.

We knew the trip would take us running the last ~ 2 hours in the dark, but we had a good weather window and thought we’d be alright running at night as even if we hit a log, it was unlikely to do damage with the get propulsion.  As we cruised up Stephens Passage, it was getting dark as we passed the entrance to Tracy Arm. We saw something white in the distance and thought it was a boat. When we got closer, we saw it was an iceberg from the glacier in Tracy Arm.   We might skip over a log, but an iceberg was another story.  As it got darker and harder to see when the snow started, Larry mentioned going to Taku Harbor for the night and I readily agreed and we headed that way. It was pitch black entering the harbor as there were no other boats at the dock, but we idled in and tied up without incident.

I suggested going up to use the public use cabin there and Larry said it could be hip deep snow getting to it, so we decided to sleep on the boat. We had prepared for this and had sleeping bags. The cabin was nice and warm when we shut down the engines and turned off the lights. By 430 am, the heat was gone and I was cold. Larry heard me stirring and suggested starting the engines again, which he did. It didn’t take too long for the cabin to warm up, and we got a couple more hours of good sleep. We rousted out of our bags at  645 as it was getting light, and we were on our way at about 7. There was not much chop crossing Taku Inlet, and we were tied up in Juneau an hour later.

Pot check

Finally got back over to check our crab pots after 3 weeks of the truck in the shop and still there. Jeffy let me borrow his truck, and an uneventful ride to the cabin. There were 3 dungies in the pots. One pot was full of juvenile king crab, and so glad to dump them out so the pot can fish again as I’ve never had dungies and king crab in the same pot that I remember.

Almost had a catastrophe at the cabin. I tipped over the table that had the radio on it, and the batteries came out of the radio, and then when I put them back in, the radio wouldn’t work. It’s an old AM/FM/CB/TV/Shortwave/Weather radio I got at a garage sale 2 doors down, and similar to the radio I used in the Peace Corps. It uses 4 “D” batteries, but I bought some adapters that allowed me to use “AA” batteries. I put the batteries back in, and it wouldn’t work. Then I saw the old “D” batteries I had in there before, and loaded them, and it did work. GREAT! I thought. I didn’t break the radio. The “AA” batteries stuck out of the adapters, and were sort of too small to make good contact on the negative end with the spring in the battery holder.

I used the old D batteries through the night and in the morning and then it hit me: tin foil! I took them out and put a square of tinfoil in the negative end of the batteries in the compartment where they contacted the springs and problem fixed!  The radio worked. So problem solved. I can use the 50 pack or whatever it is of Costco batteries that should last me til I’m in my 60’s, which ain’t too far now.

I steamed the crab at the cabin but didn’t feel like picking the meat since there were just the three. I brought them home for Sara to give away to some freshman colleagues to welcome them to the Capital.

Bull Kelp Ice Creams

I’ve made a couple batches of ice cream the past few days and both were good. The base for the ice cream is “Philadelphia Style” ice cream, and is 2 cups whipping cream, 1 cup milk and a cup of sugar. I added 1.5 cups of very finely ground bull kelp stipe, after draining off the liquid.

For one batch, I simply added 2 tbs of vanilla extract to make vanilla kelp ice cream.

For the second batch, I took 2 cups of frozen Haines cherry juice from Roy and Brenda’s cherry trees, and boiled it down to a cup, after listening to my friend Marc Wheeler’s Butterfat podcasts about ice cream making. Then, I added the one cup of sugar for the ice cream base to the juice concentrate and heated until the sugar was dissolved.

I then churned each recipe in our Kitchen Aid with the ice cream bowl and mixer attachments.

Both came out good! For the vanilla ice cream, you can certainly taste the bull kelp. For the cherry ice cream, if you didn’t know the bull kelp was in there, you’d think the chunks you were eating were cherries.

Bull Kelp Bagels

Yeast: 1 tbs yeast, 1 tbs sugar, 1/4 cup warm water.  Proof the yeast.

Bagel Dough:
4 cups plus 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (all purpose would work too)

2 tbs malted barley (can substitute 1 tbs honey + 1 tbs molasses)

1 and 1/2 cups finely ground bull kelp stipe

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs warm water.

Put in mixing bowl, except for 1/4 cup flour and 2 tbs warm water.

Mix with dough hook.  Mixture may be soupy depending on the water content of the stipe, so add the 1/4 cup extra wheat a little at a time as needed.

If flour remains on the bottom of the mixing bowl, add as needed the 2 tbs warm water till it’s all mixed.

Dough should be stout and full.

Let dough rise to double in size in an oiled bowl covered with a wet towel in a warm place.

Make bagels from dough using either rope method or ball method.

Boil bagels for 3 minutes per side.

Let drain and apply egg wash to top side.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 min.

Makes about 8 bagels.