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

Ask Eddy

Illustration by Aaron McKinney

Will homeowner's insurance cover stolen paddling gear?
In April, deranged miscreants jacked dear reader Amy Shipman's kayak and gear as she and a friend were walking the shuttle on Oregon's Kalama River. After the theft, she called her insurance company. The soulless corporate profit machine (State Farm, in case you decide to cancel your policy after Eddy finishes dishing this expose) refused to pay up, even though Amy's agent had assured her when she bought the policy that her beloved whitewater kayak would be covered. Shipman's main advice was to work with an independent agent. Enter Travis Dolling, of Dolling Insurance in Portland, Oregon, who brokers policies for several different companies, including some ethical ones. Dolling says most homeowner and renter policies cover theft and loss on canoes, kayaks and rafts—standard coverage for sporting gear losses away from home is $1,500—but in Amy's case State Farm slipped the watercraft boilerplate out of the fine print. He says boaters should watch out for that trick, and consider adding a rider to increase their coverage. Some companies even offer liability insurance on canoes and kayaks, which would have come in handy that time Eddy lost a tandem canoe and an Adirondack chair off the roof of his rig on I-90. The moral: Be sure to ask a lot of questions up front, and bring in photos of the boats you want covered. Those cubicle clowns don't know the difference between your Chestnut Prospector and a waterski boat, and the premiums could be quite different. For his part, Eddy decided to double the coverage on his most-prized piece of paddling gear: the wetsuit vest worn by Burt Reynolds in Deliverance.

What's the best way to remove a leech?
Mark Siddall, head of the leech lab at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has studied these blood-sucking worms in Madagascar, Australia, and Argentina. Whatever you do, he says, don't yank them off or hold a flame to their sterns. Traumatizing them might cause them to vomit the bacteria contained in their stomachs into the tiny incisions they've made in your skin, leading to an infection. As for salt, he says, "do you really want to put salt into your own wound?" Instead, he recommends simply breaking the seal between their sucker (the skinny end) and your skin with a fingernail, and then gently peeling the leech off. Even better, he says, is just letting the creatures suck their fill and fall off. Most can only ingest up to a teaspoon of blood, a quantity they can guzzle in about 20 minutes. Which was exactly Eddy's experience in his short stint as "the Amazing Leechboy"—capable of hosting up to eight leeches on his face at once—during his neighborhood one-boy freakshow. As for technical advice for Eddy's current sideline as a medicinal leech practitioner, Siddall says: "It would probably be inappropriate for me to answer that."

I'm heading to Baja, Mexico for a kayak trip and want to try spearfishing. Any advice?
Let Eddy just say this about spearfishing: Hell yeah! Furthermore, according to Jordan Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Spearguns, kayaks make the perfect spearfishing platform. Tether the spear to the kayak, so that it won't be lost in case of a miss (for safety's sake, never tether the spear to yourself, says Hamilton). Furthermore, like a scuba diver's surface buoy, the kayak will mark your position for fellow hunters; and lastly, it provides storage for speared fish (bleeding fish tethered to your person can attract predators like sharks and sea lions). Hamilton recommends using a shorter gun to begin with—up to 50 inches in length—because it is easier to handle, and will be appropriate for the closer quarters of the rocky Sea of Cortez shoreline. You'll need to be within 10-15 feet of the fish to pierce it with a gun that length, so attract the fish to you, Hamilton says, by floating as still as possible until fish emerge to investigate. Capitalize on their natural curiosity by clicking two shells together or hanging something shiny from the end of the speargun. When you shoot the fish, try to hit the spinal cord and paralyze it. Spears will often travel right through the gut cavity, allowing the mortally wounded fish to escape, so aim for a spot just behind the gill and about a third of the way down from the fish's top edge. Then fry filleted strips in batter mixed with un poco Tecate, and season your tacos with a bit of lime.

How big is Rhode Island, anyway?
According to Rhode Island's state Web site, it covers 1,214 square miles, which, to put it in context, is just a bit bigger than Samoa.

Check out other Ask Eddies:
Ask Eddy: The History of PFDs
Ask Eddy: Gunwales and Geocaching
Ask Eddy: Incredible Journeys

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