Category Archives: Outdoors

Senate Hearing on SB 5176 delayed, possibly dead thanks to your voices!


The Senate at the last minute decided to hold off on the bill hearing. Committee Chair Van De Wege announced that the House is still revising the text of their bill (after all the feedback we gave them) and they will want to wait to get their updates. Word I got afterwards is that they heard loud and clear this isn’t ready for law. (Perhaps that’s what happens when they get over a hundred responses and they unanimously oppose the bill?) If they do any thing more with this bill, they will reach out to the paddling community first. Most likely they will do other things to enhance safety. You can see the start of the Senate meeting and the House hearing below. Visit my post citing my testimony for other details.

A footnote: Senator Van De Wege also noted that someone published the personal contact information of the lobbyist representing the one company that supports this bill and he urged that people not address or harass the lobbyist, but speak directly with the senators and representatives.

Senate meeting today (1/28/2021)

For the record, of the 28 people signed up for verbal testimony, 19 were speaking against the bill, 9 listed as Other and 1 person speaking in support of it. That one would be the lobbyist for Kalkomey Entrprises https://www.kalkomey.com/ the business that would sell the online courses to the millions of people seeking a boater card.

House committee meeting (1/20/2021)

We aren’t out of the storm yet, but the horizon is looking clearer. Well done!

Testimony opposing HB-1018 on boater education


Here is my written testimony opposing House bill HB-1018 (and matching Senate bill SB-5176) This bill is intended to extend powerboat permit laws to human powered boats. I also gave verbal testimony during the public hearing today by the House Committee on Community & Economic Development. You can watch the replay of the hearing here. The committee meeting opens with a presentation about the stats of the Washington State Park system. The hearing for the bill starts at 0:34:00 My testimony starts at 1:19:33. If you want to give them input, they will take written testimony here until 10:00am tomorrow (1/21/2021).

“I grew up in Florida. Florida is the mecca of water sports. I’ve been paddling since I was 10.
I was a Red Cross Certified Lifeguard Instructor and in Boy Scouts I taught paddling safety.
At The University of Florida I handled waterfront safety for our sailboard, sailboat and canoe rentals to students.
I’ve been an avid whitewater and sea kayaker for 30 years and I’m trained in swift water rescue.

Thank you for your efforts on this issue. Having personally served as a water safety professional, I appreciate your passion and efforts to make water sports safer. But trying to force power boating rules and regulations on recreational paddling won’t work. If it were at all viable, Florida would have done it long ago.

The organized paddling community already does a fantastic job of safety education. Whitewater boaters are obsessive about river safety. Whitewater paddlers are statistically far more likely to get killed driving to the river than paddling it. No amount of legislation could match — much less improve — what they already do. Similarly, sea kayakers are very focused on safety.

Every sport has different safety education requirements. Whitewater paddlers use helmets and rescue throw ropes; sea kayakers use paddle floats and lights and have to know how to self-rescue far from shore; paddle boarders and surfers use board leashes; surfers actually avoid wearing a PFD because it would keep them from diving to avoid a wave. One safety class cannot cover all sports and being educated in one sport cannot prepare someone for other sports. So one boater card cannot ensure they have studied the knowledge they need for every craft they may paddle. What is even worse is that it will give holders a false sense of security that they know everything they need to be safe in any circumstance and create a liability for the State of Washington.

This bill includes paddle boards, but excludes sail boards, and makes no mention at all of kiteboards or surfboards. Apart from the kite or removable sail, they’re all about the same thing. The only difference is how they move.

It is ironic that this bill EXCLUDES the 2 groups who are most at risk:

  1. Those who take air mattresses, inner tubes, and single-chamber toy rafts on dangerous waters. They don’t have PFDs because they consider themselves swimming.
  2. Those operating boats with a small engines (under 15 HP). They may be misled by the existing law into complacency assuming that because they don’t have a big motor, they are not at risk. This may create another legal liability for the state.
    In fact, by excluding motors under 15 HP, if I toss a trolling motor inside my kayak, I wouldn’t need to buy a permit.

This legislation is the same as requiring permits to ride skateboards, bicycles, go backcountry skiing, rock climbing or horseback riding. Yet those activities can be every bit as dangerous as paddle sports. Backcountry skiers aren’t required to take an avalanche class and get a permit. Cyclists aren’t required to pass any test. Hikers and backpackers aren’t required to take any safety classes, yet rescues of hikers happen far more often than paddlers.

Finally, this is a regressive and inequitable tax. It creates another barrier to entry that discriminates against the poor who can’t afford luxury activities.

Testimony was given in opposition by representation in every affected stakeholder group: the national organizations on paddling safety (American Whitewater, American Canoe Association), a kayak manufacturer (Eddyline Kayaks), by a whitewater rafting outfitter, the Recreational Boating Association and private paddlers.

The only verbal testimony given in support of HB-1018 was by the 2 businesses that stand to gain by making a profit from it. That would be Tom Hayward, the Chief Financial Officer of NASBLA, based in Lexington, Kentucky who sustains his employment by providing services to states that implement legislation like this; and Amy Brackenbury from Kalkomey Entrprises https://www.kalkomey.com/ a business that sells the online courses that would be sold to the millions of people seeking a boater card. The deaths Ms Brackenbury cited in her testimony were given completely out of context. She offers no proof that a boater card would have prevented these deaths. Beware of emotional arguments used to sell products. She also made the claim that accidents and fatalities are spiking as people get outdoors more in response to COVID, yet testimony from Rob Sendak, Boating Programs Manager and Washington State Boating Laws Administrator housed under the Washington State Parks Department stated that accidents have actually declined. Kalkomey Enterprises has much to profit for decades to come if this bill were to pass.

In summary,
This is an education problem, not a compliance problem. You are law makers, but not every problem is solved by making a law. “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Making ignorance illegal won’t change anything. If you feel you must do something, then analyze the primary causes of paddle sports accidents and address them specifically. Reach out to the paddling organizations that have many decades dealing in paddler safety. I have included the most relevant ones below:
Washington State Parks already partners with American Canoe Association for paddler education programs. You can find the links here:
https://parks.state.wa.us/832/Paddlesports

American Whitewater even keeps a detailed database of all river related deaths along with a detailed analysis of the contributing factors along with valuable graphics that categorize the causes of these incidents. This is a must-view website: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Accident/view/

American Whitewater https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Safety/view/?
American Canoe Association https://www.americancanoe.org/page/Courses
North Sound Sea Kayak Association https://nsska.clubexpress.com/
Washington Recreational River Runners http://wrrr.org/category/rivers/river_safety/
The Mountaineers https://www.mountaineers.org/
National Center for Cold Water Safety http://www.coldwatersafety.org
Kayak Academy http://www.kayakacademy.com
Washington Kayak Club http://washingtonkayakclub.org/

Flying Isn’t Always the Entertainment We Want


View of sunset from airplane seat.

(In Lieu of any current travel here’s a tale of a trip I made July 13, 2018)
Boston to Seattle. I am sitting in the window seat. Food and beverage service comes by. “May I have the chicken plate please?” I ask.
“I’m sorry” the flight attendant says, “There was a mix-up in supplying the plane, we already ran out of meals. That woman and her daughter (pointing to the seats in front of me) got the last ones.”
My water bottle is empty. I didn’t get to fill it before boarding the plane. So I ask the flight attendant “Can you pour me some orange juice in my water bottle so I don’t have to worry about it spilling?”

“No, we’re not allowed to pour into passenger’s containers because we may spill. But I will give it to you in a paper cup so you can pinch the top and pour it into your water bottle.” Then instead of the usual low profile plastic cup, she gives me a large paper cup full to the top with orange juice. Too full to try to pour it, I set it down.

Just then I am distracted by a commotion with the passenger behind me and the very large, very full cup of juice tips over, spilling onto my laptop computer and squarely into my lap.

The apologetic flight attendant still standing there with the cart hands me a stack of napkins and takes my water bottle and pours me some orange juice. I give a big grin. “Sometimes you just gotta laugh.” She was surprised I took it so well.

So now I’m trapped in the window seat, sitting in a puddle of orange juice just 1 hour into a 6-1/2 hour flight. How could this get any worse?

A minute later I feel my foot getting wet. The little girl in the seat in front of me spilled her full cup of Sprite between the seats and onto my foot and backpack. At least I already have a wad of slightly used napkins to dry it up. How could this possibly get any worse?

The girl’s mother in the middle seat turns around and apologizes and then goes into a 10-minute rant telling me how bad her flying experience has been today starting with the airline giving her trouble at the baggage check for not having water in the cage for her labra-doodle. How dare they!

She ends with “I’ve had such a bad day! This really is Friday the 13th, isn’t it?” She says.

“Yes it is.” I reply with a wry smile, “yes it is.”

Witness to a Murder (of crows)


Taking a diversion from the usual technology-related topic to share a bit of what most people will never see,  Sunday morning, 5:30 AM, the first day of Fall, 2014.  My internal alarm clock wakes me up. It is still quite dark outside.  Charlie, our rooster hasn’t even woken up yet.  That reminds me of something I have wanted to do for a long time: watch the large flock of birds by UW Bothell leave their roost.  Would there ever be a better day to do it than today?  Probably not.  So I got up, grabbed the camera and tripod and headed over to the bike trail by the UW Bothell campus.

I got there by 6:00 AM.  The air was mild and very calm.  It was still dark enough that the dark side of the New Moon with a brighter thin crescent edge was visible to the east, looking out over the roosting area.

Moon rise over Bothell

Moon rise over Bothell (actual brightness)

I set up my camera and waited.  It wasn’t long before the first birds start to fly, around 6:10 AM.  It started off slow at first, but very quickly the sky was full of them – A Murder of many thousands of Crows!
I was able to capture the sunrise as they left their roost in rivers of birds flying out to greet the world.  I noticed that they don’t just fly out in all directions.  Instead, they follow flight paths as if Air Traffic Control were giving them instructions.  The stream of birds went on for over 30 minutes.  Since it was early on a Sunday morning, the traffic noise from the highway was quiet.  The result is a very peaceful, almost meditational video.  I can imagine leaving the video playing on one of my computer monitors for a calm white-noise effect to offset the chimes of meeting reminders and email alerts while I work. It is recorded in HD, so it’s worth watching in full screen.

Don’t let the conditioning of modern television’s 5 to 20 second long clips between scene changes make you anxious after a minute or two of this.  Consider finding a time when you can sit and let the video play in its entirety as if you were there yourself, filming it.  If you are looking for a moment of excitement, you will have to create it yourself.  Count the number of times you see a lone bird flying in the other direction. Or count the number of times a bird flaps its wings as it passes by. Or count the number of times a pair of Canada Geese fly by.  Or count the number of distinct caws you hear. Or simply count the number of birds that fly by. Or just watch the rhythm of the stream of birds as the sky gradually changes color.  This far north, we have long sunrises.  Enjoy.

The Bothell crows make up a murder of many thousands of crows that roost every night at the 58 acre wetlands restoration site sandwiched between I-405, Hwy 522, and the University of Washington-Bothell campus.

The restoration project was started 12 years ago.  This is what it looked like back then:

North Campus wetland restoration 2002

Bothell Wetlands Today

You can learn more about this flock of crows  at the UW website.
And their Facebook page.
You can also get a better idea of just how large this murder is from this footage of them gathering again at the end of the day.

Save Our Farms and Wine Country in King County, WA


This is an open letter to King County Council and the City of Woodinville with regard to their plan to open up the Sammamish River corridor to urban development:

Dear King County Council:

I live a mile from downtown Woodinville, WA. Before living here, I lived on 3 acres in a semi-rural part of South Carolina. When I first moved to Puget Sound 12 years ago, I was immediately drawn to this spot because of the country feeling it has, yet is so close to everything in the city.  My commute to work has consisted of riding the 1 mile down to the Sammamish River bike trail, then 10 miles on a quiet, scenic ride along the trail to Marymoor Park, then 1 more mile up to my office.  Even in the winter, this is a pleasant ride.

On my ride in the mornings, the air smells clean and fresh.  There are no roads or houses anywhere close to the trail.  I see lots of wildlife: rabbits, beavers and herons are always there.  But the wilderness experience goes far beyond that.  I have seen a coyote catching a rabbit.  I have seen an eagle catch a duck in the middle of one of the farms; I have had an owl fly along beside me as I rode home in the winter night.  This place is surprisingly quiet and devoid of noise pollution.  A great comfort for people and an absolute necessity for creatures like owls which depend on hearing to catch their food.  This corridor is a great sanctuary for people as well as wildlife from the growth and expansion of urban life and an important reason why I choose to live here.

At night, this corridor is one of the few places not flooded with light pollution, yet open enough to see the sky.  I sometimes take my daughter here to see the stars.  Earlier this year we were able to go down to the bike trail near the St. Michelle winery to watch the meteor shower and another time to watch the lunar eclipse.  During the day, this is one of the few places near my home where I can get an unobstructed view of Mt Rainier.  Most evenings throughout the summer, a pair of hot air balloons can be seen drifting down the valley where they will land in a field.  These balloons are as much the trademark of the City of Woodinville as the Space Needle is of the City of Seattle.  (see the city logo in the top right corner of the City of Woodinville website)These experiences will all be gone permanently, when you open this area up to development.

I support protecting our farms, forests, and rural lands. These lands are important, not only to Woodinville’s wine and tourism industry, but to everyone who lives here or passes through.  Many thousands of cyclists use this corridor daily.  To quote from your own website:

“The Sammamish River Trail (SRT) runs 10.9 miles along the Sammamish River from Bothell to Marymoor Park in Redmond as part of the “Locks to Lakes Corridor.” The SRT is paved its entire length and is one of King County’s most popular regional trails. The trail offers extraordinary views of the river, the broad Sammamish River Valley, Cascade foothills and Mt. Rainier. Bicyclists, joggers, skaters, walkers, and others enjoy the trail as a regional recreation resource. The SRT is also used extensively by commuters as a nonmotorized corridor between suburban cities and Seattle.”

To develop this land will not only diminish the value of the valley itself, but also destroy the very reason many people are drawn to this area to begin with.  Please protect our lands by keeping King County’s designated urban growth area right where it is.

Sincerely,
David Hablewitz

If you support this letter, even if you don’t live here, please add your name below by simply posting a comment.  You can write your own letter by visiting http://www.savewoodinvillefarms.org
Please respond quickly.  Hearings are to be held on this topic September 11, 12, and 18

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