Jan 03 2018

Notice to Mariners: We’re Back In the Same Boat!

New articles are posted below this Notice to Mariners, which is a “sticky.” It will remain at the top of the TNO home page for a while yet.

January 2018.  If you’re looking for Tamia’s and Farwell’s In the Same Boat, you’re almost there. Come on over to our new mooring at Back in the Same Boat.

Jan 24 2018

It’s a Wrap: A Cyclist’s Tool Roll in Three Easy Steps by Tamia Nelson

Do you have trouble finding your tools when you have to do a roadside repair? Then you need a tool roll. The good news? You can make a custom one for yourself, and it need not cost a cent. Tamia shows you how.

When I head out on trips that will take me more than an hour’s hike from home — and that’s most of the trips I take — I carry a roadside repair kit in addition to my seat-pack tools and the rest of my cycling gear.

For a long time I carried tools in my handlebar bag, tucked away inside a plastic freezer bag. This wasn’t ideal. The tools rattled with every bump. More importantly, they weighed in at 2 pounds 4 ounces — about as much as a full quart water bottle. That’s a lot of weight to add to an already overloaded bar bag. I needed to find a better way. Luckily, I always mount a rack trunk or small pannier on my bike for longer rides, and either one would easily accommodate my tools. But I also wanted something better than a freezer bag to contain them. I wanted a tool roll.

Now it so happens that I own lots of tool rolls, in a full range of sizes, but they’re mostly made from heavy canvas. Moreover, every one is already in use. The upshot? I sat down at my sewing machine. It’s not my favorite seat — I’m no seamstress — but the job didn’t take long.

First, I drew what an engineer would probably call a concept sketch:

Sketchy Idea

Then I outlined the work flow:

  1. Hem the rectangle of fabric (keeps it from unraveling)
  2. Fold up the bottom
  3. Stitch individual tool compartments
  4. Pat self on back (optional, but recommended)

All that remained? Load and go:

  1. Slide tools into place
  2. Fold flap over
  3. Roll up
  4. Tie securely

I figured I could handle this sewing project, even if I’m not exactly the Tailor of Gloucester. I’d only have to sew straight lines, after all.

For fabric I chose to recycle a hi-viz nylon stuff sack I found on the verge of the road. (These strip landfills that do double duty as New York’s state highways are a never-ending source of swag for the resourceful cyclist.) I’d used some of that stuff sack already to customize my ill-fitting Performance Transformer jacket, but there was plenty of material left over to make a tool roll. The first step was easy. I flattened the nylon material on my work table and laid my tools on top of it. Now I knew just how much fabric I’d need.


As the photo above suggests, I’d originally planned to store my spare brake and derailleur cables with my tools, but that would have made the roll hard to fold and could have deformed the cables. They would go into my bar bag instead. They weigh almost nothing, after all.

Next, I traced the borders of the compartments with a laundry marker. Then I cut the fabric to size and hemmed the edges. After that, all that remained to do was to fold the bottom third of the rectangle up, close the sides, and stitch the individual compartments. (I backstitched at the openings to stop the stitches from unraveling.) That was that. It was time to put the tools in place:

Ready for Occupancy

They were a perfect fit, even if their slots were not exactly regular.

Snug as Tools in a Roll

A length of nylon cord — another bit of treasure trove from the highway recycling center — secures the roll:

Good to Go

Bottom line: My new tool roll may not be elegant, but it’s surely a cut above a freezer bag. The garish color has two unplanned benefits. First, I’m not likely to leave it behind after finishing a roadside repair. Secondly, the color contrasts well with tools and small parts like fasteners, making it less likely I’ll lose sight of them while making a repair. And as a bonus, it matches my riding jacket. Function and fashion rolled up in one tidy package. What more could anyone ask?

Read more: Saddle Bag Tools | Roadside Repairs | Bike Maintenance

This article is an update of one originally published on 11 February 2014.

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Jan 23 2018

On Becoming an Expert by Farwell Forrest

Everyone agrees that beginners should listen to the experts. But how do you know an expert when you see one? And more importantly, if you’re just starting out, how can you become an expert in your own right? Those are the questions that Farwell tries to answer this week. Does he succeed? Take three minutes to find out.

Experts are springing up everywhere we turn today, like thistles in an overgrazed field. Yet who would dare complain? In our increasingly complex and interconnected world, expertise is sorely needed. Still, for those of us who aren’t experts — and that’s most of us, I suppose — it’s easy to become confused, particularly when so many of the experts offer contradictory advice.

The upshot? It soon becomes painfully obvious that no single expert has a monopoly on truth. This isn’t to say that there’s no such thing as consensus, of course. The subject of global warming comes to mind here. Nearly all the experts agree that we’re refashioning the earth’s climate in ways inimical to life. But there’s still ample scope for disagreement about the details, and there will always be dissenting voices who challenge the consensus. Which invites the obvious question: If experts can’t be relied on to speak with a single voice, just what, exactly, distinguishes them from the rest of us? Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jan 20 2018

Getting Around: When It’s Time to Punt by Tamia Nelson

What do you do when the water’s too thin to wet a blade? Or when you need to climb a fast‑flowing river? Well, you could get out of your canoe and walk. Or you could give up and go home. But if you’re game for something new, why not try punting? As Tamia points out in this column, all it takes is a long, strong pole and a little practice. So what do you say? Why not “It’s time to punt”?

Sometimes even the most laid‑back paddlers have to go against the flow. And at other times the water’s so thin that a paddle just won’t bite. That’s when you’ll want to punt. I’m not talking football here. Punting is another way of saying “poling.” (See note below.) A punt is a flat‑bottomed boat, and punting is propelling a punt by pushing it where you want it to go with a pole thrust against the bottom of a river or canal. But your boat doesn’t have to be a punt. You can punt a canoe, too.

Confused? I’m not surprised. Punting is one of the many things that’s easier to do than to talk about. Words just get in the way. But while most canoeists have heard of poling, not many have given it a try. And that’s too bad. Whether you call it punting or poling, it’s a technique well worth adding to your bag of tricks. Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jan 20 2018

Knots to Know: The Figure-Eight Loop by Tamia Nelson

If you’ve been reading SameBoat Shorts these last two weeks, then you know the importance of learning the ropes. But that’s not enough. Every paddler should learn a few good knots, too. Last week, Tamia tied one on with a bowline, but this week she’s in the loop with an alternative, and it 8n’t hard to tie at all.

A trekker’s world can come unstuck in a hurry if he doesn’t have a rope AND if he doesn’t know how to use it. Which is why learning the ropes is as important as learning any basic skill. Knowing which knots to use and when comes with the territory. And sooner or later, every adventurer will need to make a fixed loop in a length of rope. The bowline is a very good way to do this, but good as it is, the bowline isn’t perfect.

Where does it fall down? Well, to begin with, the bowline holds best in laid rope. Braided rope — probably the most common type in use today — is slipperier and (sometimes) springier. Bowlines tied in braided ropes will occasionally work loose, and therefore need to be watched carefully. Back in the late 1960s, when American climbers switched from three-strand laid rope — Goldline was one popular brand — to European kernmantel (a type of braided rope with a linear core), they also began to substitute other knots for the hitherto standard bowline. The figure-eight loop emerged as the preferred alternative. Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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