Ask Eddy: Canal Retentive?

You've got questions, Eddy's got answers

panama canal Illustration by Aaron McKinney
Illustration by Aaron McKinney

Can I paddle through the Panama Canal?

Ducking through the 48-mile-long Panama Canal instead of paddling around South America will save you 7,872 miles, so it’s a good idea. Sort of. Though Eddy has shunned Latin America ever since that awkward church mission Mother took us on for the travel discount alone, the canal shortcut still intrigues. The issue, however, is cost. Boats shorter than 50 feet get dinged with over $1,000 in fees (cheap compared to the 400 grand they charge container ships full of basketball sneakers). Even if you have the money, authorities might not let your little kayak into either of the two sets of 1,000-foot-long locks. That’s according to Christopher Huerbsch, who helps organize the annual race through the canal in traditional four-person canoes called cayucos. Even with tradition on his side—the Ocean to Ocean Cayuco Race is in its 62nd year—Huerbsch can’t always get access permission through the locks. “They are worried about liability,” he says, and revenue (see above). Some years, the 60-plus canoe crews have to make the three-mile portage around the locks by car. In the 500-foot-wide Culebra Cut, on the Atlantic side, racers hug the shore to stay away from the line of mammoth ships. You’d likely get chased out of there by authorities in speedboats with bullhorns, says Huerbsch, which sounds like a job Eddy would dig. Once you are in the vast 164-square-mile Gatun Lake, you are pretty much good to go—there are more than a few kayak touring companies that ply the reservoir with tourists—until you hit the locks on the Pacific side.

Why do I pass more gas when camping?

Every camper produces gas differently, and it’s true that lots of them make more tail wind when in the backcountry. “Although I am far from a fart expert, I am a pretty good farter,” says Buck Tilton, author of, ironically, Don’t Get Poisoned: Protect Yourself from Wilderness Toxins. “I can tell you flatulence is gas produced by incomplete digestion, which is often caused by the sorts of foods we eat while camping.” That means beans of course, and dried fruit, which both have sugars that are harder for the body to digest. Since campers eat a lot of raisins and such, they are bound to bake a lot of air biscuits. Some dried fruit brands have sulfites for preservatives, which can cause the rotten egg-type flatulence, so those biscuits might be pretty ripe. Poor hydration can also be a factor, says Tilton, as it clogs digestion, so be sure to waterlog those dehydrated meals. This is all fine by Eddy, who likes nothing more than a good blue angel session (never inside a flammable nylon tent, mind you), but according to Tilton, if your horn don’t blow, that can be a serious problem, especially at altitude. Up there, some people get a lot more gassy because the lower atmospheric pressure lets carbon dioxide dissolve more easily from the bloodstream into the intestines. If you are a dehydrated mountaineer, you might not be able to pass that gas, and you’ll get stomach pain. Not that Eddy would ever know—the highest he ever gets is the top of the town water tower, from whence he’s been known to broadcast his trouser coughs with a bullhorn.

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This installment originally ran in our June 2015 issue.