Ask Eddy: Gunwales and Geocaching

Eddy’s got answers on gunwales, geocaching and cryptosporidium

Eddy, the beloved boating guru in Canoe & Kayak’s print magazine, has come to life on the website. This story featured in the December 2008 issue and was written by Frederick Reimers and Sam Moulton.

geocaching

Illustration by Aaron McKinney

What’s the origin of the turn gunwale?

Since guns and whales are two of Eddy’s favorite things, he’s glad you asked. Sadly, however, there are no marine mammals involved. The term originally referred to a ridge added to the rim of a sailing warship’s deck—a strengthening “wale” to alleviate the stresses from mounted artillery. Now it just refers to any stiffening structure at the top of a boat, most commonly a canoe. (Note to whitewater kayakers: It’s pronounced like “tunnel.” Now take your seat—in the bow.)

Geocaching seems like a really cool hobby. Why aren’t more paddlers into it?

Geocaching.com, the most popular website for geocachers, people who hide small caches and then invite other people to find them using GPS units, lists more than 2 million “actively maintained” caches worldwide, in spots as diverse as the Wyoming desert and mid-town Manhattan. But not many of them are accessible by boat, apparently. Lurking around online, Eddy eventually found a few paddling geocachers. Lynne Angeloro maintains a series of caches—in this case, film canister-sized boxes—on islands that dot Olympic Peninsula lakes. But she confessed her aquatic caches aren’t nearly as popular as her terrestrial sites. Another knock against paddling popularity is that much of the best water in this country is around federally controlled land, where geocaching is barred. “It’s not exactly leave no trace,” a ranger from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area told Eddy, referring to the carvings on trees and buried ammo cans she’s been hauling out of the woods for the last 10 years. She’s even gone as far as monitoring geocaching websites to locate illegal caches. Some good news for geocachers: Parks Canada recently announced it was considering lifting its ban on the activity. Which gives Eddy yet another good reason to consider defecting to the Great White North.

How dangerous is cryptosporidium really?

Until recently, Eddy believed that cryptosporidium was a marketing ploy to sell more water filters. He heard dire warnings that this new water-borne pathogen could be killed by neither iodine nor chlorine nor even repeated viewing of early ’90s creekboating videos. But the crowd Eddy rolls with isn’t exactly renowned for good hygiene, and none of them has died, or even got sick from cryptosporidium. According to wilderness medicine expert Buck Tilton, author of Don’t Get Sick, if you’ve been drinking unfiltered water in the backcountry, you may have been a carrier, even if you didn’t get sick. Cryptosporidium is a cyst, much like giardia, and attaches itself to the intestinal wall where it multiplies, causing nausea, fever and diarrhea. Tilton says healthy people typically shed the parasite after a few days, or never suffer the symptoms at all because their immune systems are strong enough kill the crypto. What about the critter being iodine and chlorine-proof? True, he says. The cyst has a much tougher outer shell than does giardia, and so resists the chemicals’ corrosive power. However, the creatures are large enough (one micron), to be filtered out by most backpacking water filters. It is also defenseless against the steriPEN ($70, steripen.com), which kills pathogens by exposing them to ultraviolet light. Boiling your water will also do the trick. Bottom line, Tilton says, crypto won’t kill you unless you have a weak immune system (like the very young or old). Looks like Eddy will be stocking up on filters before Backcountry Baby Jamboree 2014, his annual toddler canoe expedition to Saskatchewan. Maybe we’ll just geocache all of our iodine tablets up there.

Got a question for Eddy? Email AskEddy@canoekayak.com.

Related Posts:

Add a Comment

Buyer's Guide

Buyer's Guide