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HASK History



Club Origins

HASK History Summary

HASK History 2003 - 2018

   Club Leadership

   Trip Leaders

   Paddle Trips

   Member Training

   HASK Meetings

   Annual Picnic

   Social Events

   Other Events


   Conservation and Community
Member Stories

          Toledo Bend 2003
Bocce Beach 2009 with Greg & Pat
Greg is from Russia

Club Origins by Robert Stark 2000- 2002

Founding the Club

In 2000 David Trail and I meet at the Black-eyed Pea restaurant on West Gray and discussed starting a sea kayaking club in Houston.   David had his own business, Trail Expeditions, selling sea kayaks and gear.  He felt strongly that Houston should have a vendor-independent club in Houston dedicated to sea kayaking.   Canoesport had a club for their customers and sea kayaking played only a minor role with the Houston Canoe Club.   In 1994, I bought my first kayak from David and immediately fell in love with the sport.   At the meeting in 2000, we put our ideas together and documented them on a napkin (How else do you start a great endeavor? ).   First, we needed to determine the level of interest in the Houston/Galveston area for having a sea kayaking club. I composed an email and David sent it out to his customer list.  There was interest.  I created a sample Pre-HASK Trip Plan for Dickinson Bay to discuss with David.  We had a couple of meetings with those interested to discuss the possibility of a club, one of which included a paddle on Armand Bayou.  I felt there was sufficient interest and support for the club.  So, I proceeded with the legal formation of the club.  I chose to incorporate the club as a social non-profit primarily for the liability protection it would provide the club’s officers.   I developed the Corporate Charter and Bylaws with legal assistance.  I received the corporate charter on July 26th.  The initial officers were Robert Stark, Bill Van Tassell, and Nancy Howse.  

The first HASK meeting was held on July 27th.  Sixteen people joined HASK, bylaws were approved, and officers were elected:

  • Robert E. Stark, Commodore
  • William G. Van Tassell, Treasurer
  • Rudy Rivers, Safety Director

The founding members were: 

Richard Brock

Rudy Rivers

Russell Fory

Brian Roy

Gerald E. Fountain

Robert Scaldino

Bill Howse

Robert Stark

Nancy D. Howse

James N. Strickland

Ben Lee

Janeth W. Strickland

Barbara Rathgeber

David Trail

Van (Skip) Rathgeber

William G. Van Tassell

John Heath presented a video on Greenland style rolling techniques.  John was an eminent sea kayak historian, and expert on the evolution and construction of Greenland kayaks. He promoted Maligiaq Padilla, world champion Greenland kayaker, in the US.  Minutes for Club Meeting on 7/27/2000

Robert Stark

David Trail

In August HASK became an American Canoe Association (ACA) Paddle America Club.   This provided the club with insurance for all of our on-water activities and safety guidelines for those activities.  This allowed us to have a formal club with trip leaders and ACA sanctioned trips.   Letter Sent to the ACA. 

We had our second club meeting on August 24th. Natalie Wiest did a presentation.  Here is the meeting agenda.  No one volunteered for the open Board positions. 

I developed trip procedures, trip leader requirements, trip levels/ratings, gear requirements, etc. for HASK based on those provided by the North Shore Paddlers Network. Their President graciously allowed us to use the materials posted on their website.  It was a great starting point.  I modified theirs to fit our club and the likely conditions we would be paddling in.  

I led the first club trip on September 24th on Armand Bayou.  We had another Armand Bayou trip in October and a paddle trip on Lake Charlotte in December.

2001-2002 Realizing the Vision


We had a good start but we did not yet have a viable club.   It would take another two years to solidify the club. It would take time to find good paddling locations.  Those that suggested paddling locations include: David Trail, Marilyn Kircus, and Natalie Wiest, locally, and Ken Johnson and Mark Arnold from Corpus Christi. 

Chris Kuhlman joined the HASK board as Vice Commodore in July.  Chris brought his experience with other non-profits to the Board and was an excellent paddler.   He hosted 8 TGIF Sunset Paddles at the Seabrook Sailing Club that summer.  Chris would lead a short paddle in the bay and then fire up the grill.  People brought meat to grill, side dishes, etc.  It was very popular and did much to solidify the club.

We ran five other trips in 2001, including our first out of town camping trip to Lake Buchanan over Labor Day weekend.   We also had trips to North Lake Houston, Christmas Bay, and Double Bayou. 

We had 5 club meetings in 2001.  Karen Knight presented “Cold Weather Paddling” at the February meeting and Bob Foote showed us how to “Outfit our Kayaks Inside and Out” at the March meeting.   Bob and Karen are Certified ACA Instructor Trainer Educators in sea kayaking, river kayaking, and canoeing.

Chris Kuhlman

Falls Creek Falls, Lake Buchanan 2001


In 2002 Bob Scaldino (Treasurer), Susie Bryan (Membership Director), and Skip Rathgeber (Safety Director) joined the HASK Board.   The Board planned out the first 6 months of the year and published a calendar of events through our website and email.  We followed the plan with some of the usual rescheduling.  The club was really coming together.  We ran about 17 trips including several TGIF paddles at the Seabrook Sailing Club.   New trips included John Wiggins Bayou, Tiki Island to Moody Gardens, Cotton Lake, Galveston West Bay, and Old River. We had our first moonlight paddle on North Lake Houston.

We had 6 club meetings in 2002, 4 with presentations and 2 planning sessions:

  • Winter Paddling & Hypothermia - Robert Stark
  • Wind, Waves, Land Masses, and their Effects on Paddlers - Robert Stark
  • Packing Your Kayak for Expeditions – Chris Kuhlman
  • First Solo Crossing of the Gulf of Mexico - Arthur Hebert


Chris and I conducted the first HASK Rescue Training session on 5/18/2002.  We were both certified ACA Coastal Kayak Instructors.  Wanting to improve our skills and seeing the need to run safe trips and provide training to HASK members, Chris and I invested a lot of time and money in training with the ACA and BCU.  We both achieved ACA Level 4 Coastal Kayak Instructor certifications in 2002 and BCU 4 Star Sea Kayak Paddler awards. This training enabled us to run safe trips, provide quality training to club members, and implement good safety practices.

The vision of having a sea kayaking club in the greater Houston area had been realized.   The club was viable.  Now we just needed to keep it going and growing.

HASK History Summary

Timeline of Key Accomplishments


  • Club formation
  • First kayak trip (Armand Bayou)


  • First weekend camping trip (Lake Buchanan)
  • TGIF sunset paddles from Seabrook sailing club
  • Online posting of HASK events


  • First moonlight paddle (N. Lake Houston)
  • First rescue training Session
  • HASK Yahoo Group created for member email list
  • Booth at SW Canoe Rendezvous


  • First Rolling Session
  • First Trip Leader Training & Assessment
  • Informational Website Implemented
  • Created logo, business cards, brochure and banner


  • First annual Picnic and Paddle
  • Implemented HASK website on Club Express


  • Added kayak demo to annual picnic


  • First 2 Day ACA Coastal Kayak Day Trip Leading
  • First near shore gulf trip off Galveston Island


  • First triathlon support (Galveston's Ironman 70.3)
  • T-Shirts and Hats with HASK Logo


  • First “Pimp Your Kayak Event”
  • First surf training


  • First HASK Holiday party
  • Annual training plan implemented
  • Meeting & Training Coordinator position created
  • Implemented totally revised Website
  • Implemented Online Waivers


  • First annual club budget adopted
  • New HASK Logo


  • Implemented online store for HASK merchandise
  • New HASK Bylaws created and approved
  • First knots class was taught at Karbach Brewery


  • Club focused on trips, meetings, socials, training, etc. Members just had a whole lot of fun.


  • Comprehensive HASK history section was added to the website. 
  • Introduced "Exercise Paddles" to simulate long distance, heat, chop, and boat traffic in preparation for Manhattan Island Circumnavigation 


Annual Club Highlights


  • Training program - Phil Salvador, Al Stern and others held nine club training events, including basic strokes, flat water rescues, surf training (5), lumpy water rescues, and maneuvering strokes.
  • Robert Stark created and implemented a comprehensive HASK history section on the website.
  • Carl Kuhnen led a series of seven "Exercise Paddles" to simulate long distance, heat, chop, and boat traffic in preparation for seven members' participation in the Manhattan Island Circumnavigation in August, which is run annually by the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club.  Circ participants were Willie Younger, Chris Arceneaux, Leslie Taylor, Linda Davis, Ray Andrews, Craig Shipp, and Carl Kuhnen.
  • Active paddling year, with 36 club trips, including a spectacular full moon winter solstice trip on Christmas Bay. Many thanks to our 2018 trip leaders: Bill Ohsie, Bob Scaldino, Carl Kuhnen, Chris Arceneaux, John Grisaffi, Karen Newcomb, Paul Penning, Phil Salvador, Robin Hartman, and Wendel Bordelon.
  • HASK booth at Buffalo Bayou Regatta brought members and visitors together at the end of a cold wet race. 
  • Club members and guests endured cold (40s) misty wind (15 - 20 mph) to hold (half of) another successful picnic at Twin Lakes. Some people even paddled. Stephanie Shipp and Cynthia Wisener organized this event.   

Participant Hours

HASK is all about creating great experiences for members and other participants. So, the key metric for HASK is participant hours.  We also call it “Fun Hours”. We assume everyone is having fun .  The graph below shows HASK has provided about 45,000 participant hours inception to date. 

Membership Count

HASK started with 16 members in 2000.  Between 2000 and 2005 the membership count was a slow ramp up to 68.  Detailed stats are not available.  HASK converted to Club Express at the end of 2005 which provides the membership stats in the graph below.  2020 was really a success considering the impact of Covid-19.

HASK History 2003 - 2018

“As you read through this history you will see the many people who have made HASK what it is today. 
I am always amazed by the talented people who have joined HASK and made very significant contributions.
I personally want to thank all of you.”  Robert Stark, HASK Commodore 2000-2014.

Club Leadership

The club is managed by elected officers who serve on the HASK Board of Directors (Board).  The Board positions are: Commodore, Vice Commodore, Membership Director, Fleet Captain, Safety Director, Treasurer. In 2014, the club added positions for Training Coordinator and Meeting Coordinator.  A board member may also fill one of these positions.  The club has had a Webmaster since 2002.

The leadership team is charged with ensuring the club has lots of fun events: paddle trips, interesting presentations at meetings, training events, and social events.  They also take care of the business side of the club:  Setting policy, ensuring member safety, paying bills, statutory reporting, ensuring the bylaws are followed, etc.

To date, we have had 41 members serve in leadership positions.   Here is a complete list of Members Serving in a Leadership Role and Club Leadership by Year.   They deserve much appreciation for without them there would be no club.   Here is our current leadership team.


Robert Stark 2000 - 2014

Carl Kuhnen 2015 - 2019

Chris Arceneaux 2020 - Present

Trip Leaders

Kayaking trips are the heart of the club and trip leaders make them happen.  In the beginning Robert Stark and Chris Kuhlman led all of the trips.   By 2003 it was time for a change.  The first trip leader training/assessment was held in November 2003.  Robert developed the training syllabus.  Chris and Robert conducted the training.  It was a 1 day class.  Doug Hurst, Bryan Mason, Steve Meyer, Hai Nguyen, Van (Skip) Rathgeber were approved as trip leaders.  Since then HASK has had 8 more Trip Leader Training/Assessments sessions.  We started using outside instructors to 2008 to bring new perspective and independence for training and approving trip leaders.    We went from 1 day classes to a full 2-day official ACA course in 2010.  

So far 55 students have been trained.  There are 22 trip leaders as of 12/31/20.   Here are lists of Trip Leader Classes & Students and Current Trip Leaders and Trainers

Paddle Trips
HASK has grown from running about 16 trips a year to about 49 per year.  From club inception through 2020 we have run 585 trips with over 5121 participations. This has provided an estimated 25,000 fun hours (participant hours).  Yes, members always have fun on our trips .

Here is a quick look at some of our paddle trips HASK Trips.

The key to this success has been the willingness of trip leaders to take the training, lead trips, and find new paddling destinations. HASK paddling destinations and routes have increased from 12 in 2002 to over 194 in 2020. 
Our trip/venues can be found in a the Hask Trip Spreadsheet developed by Carl Kuhnen and as Trip Launch Points on a Google Earth Map compliments of Wendel Bordelon.

HASK paddle trips are much than just paddling.  Often participants gather at a restaurant after the paddle.  Overnight trips provide an opportunity for socializing, sharing a meal, and really get to know each other.  Click here to read member stories. 


Falls Creek Falls, Lake Buchanan 2003
Paddlers at Sunset
Pecos March, 2011

Member Training

HASK started providing training to its members in 2002 and has provided 112 training sessions since, with 1241 member participations.  In 2014 Rob Plenderleith created the first HASK Annual Training Plan, with Board approval.  Bruce Asher lead the HASK training program from 2015 thru 4/2018.  Phil Salvador is the current training coordinator.

HASK Training 2002-2020 click for details
Type of Training Sessions *Participants
Rescue Training 24 426
Rolling 21 161
Strokes 29 240
Surf Zone Paddling Skills 23 280
Trip Leader Training and Assessment 13 123
Other: Navigation, VHF Radio… 2 11
Total                     112                       1241

* Includes Instructors 

Flat Water Rescue Clinics

So how to get back in your kayak when it's upside down and you are swimming?  Could be important .  Several rescue methods are covered in the training, but the primary goal is that all students have at least one self-rescue and one assisted rescue that they can perform in both roles.  HASK started having 1 day flat water rescue clinics in 2002.   Robert Stark and Chris Kuhlman led the sessions.  Trip leaders started providing instruction as they gained training and experience.  Paul Penning led this training 2006-2008.  Then others took up the mantle including Steven Ulrich, Tim Russell, Karl Brauer, Rob Plenderleith, Bruce Asher, and Phil Salvador.


Lumpy water practice and rescue training (bay conditions)

This training takes it up a notch from the flat water sessions by adding in the challenges of boat control in windy, choppy conditions.  The first session was held in 2011 led by Steve Ulrich.   In 2014 this became an annual event initially lead by Karl Brauer.  Rob Plenderleith, Bruce Asher and Phil Salvador have more recently led this event.  

Strokes and Kayak Fundamentals

In 2004 Steve Meyer organized a Perfecting Your Strokes class taught by Bob Foote and Karen Knight.  Since then HASK has offered a variety of strokes and kayak fundamental classes.   Some focus on the fundamentals of sea kayaking including basic strokes and rescues while others focus on strokes refinement.  Most are on flat water while others offer more challenging conditions.   Professional instructors include Bob Foote, Karen Knight and Steve Walls.  HASK instructors include Bruce Asher, Rob Plenderleith, Phil Salvador, Robert Stark, Steve Ulrich. 

Rolling Clinics

In 2003 Bryan Mason hosted a couple of rolling sessions in his pool.  Chris Kuhlman and Robert Stark provided the training.  Not sure if anyone learned to roll but it was a lot of fun.  In 2007 HASK brought in the pros, Bob Foote and Karen Knight, to teach a session at the Dad’s club and repeated this event in 2008.  In 2010, we partnered with Steve Walls from Dallas.  Between 2010 and 2014 Steve provided 14 rolling session.  Most of his students achieved a roll.  Recent instructors include Alan Stern and Phil Salvador.   


“Hitting my first few rolls were one of the coolest things I have ever done.  Unfortunately hitting a roll
or two does not mean you have a roll.  That takes a lot of practice and persevering times
when the roll just doesn’t work.”    Robert Stark

Surf Training

Karl Brauer brought gulf paddling and kayak surfing to HASK.  Here we were a “sea kayak” club, but we only paddled bayous, rivers, lakes and bays (only in mild conditions).  There was no “sea” in our sea kayaking.  Why?  Because there is nothing intuitive about launching and landing in the surf, particularly the dumping surf of the coast from Galveston to Freeport.  And there is nothing intuitive about teaching paddlers the skills, even if you are a paddler who has the skills.  Karl wanted to paddle in the Gulf, so invested in the time, travel and professional instruction to obtain surf zone skills himself, and to bring surf zone instruction to HASK by mimicking the training technics used by his instructors.  Over the years as he took more instruction he modified the approach he used at HASK to what we have today which provides a very safe, structured training environment that allows 95% of the HASK members who participate to succeed at launching and landing in our Galveston/Freeport surf zone conditions with consistent success. 

Karl Brauer - Ready to Surf, January 2018

Learning to land in the surf zone with consistent success leads naturally to surfing sea kayaks.  Karl was taking long boat surfing lessons concurrently with his launch/landing lessons, and encouraged his successful students to give surfing a try.  As a result, HASK now has a significant contingent of paddlers regularly monitoring surf and weather conditions for opportunities to send out a flash message inviting members to hit the surf, both as HASK events and as private outings.

Paddling in a surf zone in dumping waves, which is typical of the Galveston-Freeport coast, is tantamount to paddling in rough sea or storm conditions, but with the safety allowed by an escape to a safe beach landing only 50 to 100 yards away.  Practicing paddling in the surf zone has significantly increased the individual skills of HASK paddlers, and those increased skills have proved themselves when club members have ventured to Connecticut, Maine, Washington state, Georgia and Florida for instruction, symposia and meetups where sea conditions are more dramatic than we normally paddle in the Houston area.

Karl lead kayak surf zone training classes from 2010 thru 2014.  In 2015, he handed this over to Rob Plenderleith who continued to improve the training curriculum.  Alan Stern lead this training starting in 2018  By the end of 2020, 23 classes have been conducted with 280 participations (including instructors).

Karl has complete BCU 4 Star Trip Leader training and Rob is a certified ACA Coastal Kayak Instructor. Al Stern has had extensive training and mentoring.  

Karl Brauer

Rob Plenderleith
Al Stern

HASK Meetings

HASK meetings, from the beginning, were designed to be interesting and enjoyable for the members.  They are held bi-monthly usually at a restaurant.  The agenda typically includes a happy hour, dinner, short business meeting, and a very interesting presentation.  Well, most are interesting .  Occasionally there are planning sessions to get ideas for new paddle trips, meeting topics, training events, etcPresentation topics include paddling safety, member trips to exotic destinations, environmental, birding, packing your kayak, building your own kayak, etc.   Complete List of HASK Member Meetings.

In 2014, Bruce Asher started doing short safety presentations.  This has since become part of the agenda at most HASK Meetings. The position of Meeting Coordinator was created in 2014 by the Board.  Before that, the Commodore or Vice Commodore typically coordinated the meetings with input from the Board.  



Year Coordinator
2000-2007 Robert Stark
2007-2010 Chris Kuhlman
2011 Robert Stark
2012-2014 Bob Scaldino
2014-2016 Becky Claytor
2017 Denise King Asher
2018 Denise King Asher, Leslie Taylor
2019 Kent Walters
2020 Chris Arceneaux, Kent Walters

Carl and Linda Kuhnen have also coordinated the meetings from time to time.

Annual Picnic

In 2006, it was apparent that HASK needed a social on-water event.   Trip participation was down.  Something was needed to draw people together to get to know one another.   Steve Meyer offered the excellent suggestion of offering free food at an event.   This led to our first HASK Picnic on 4/30/2006 at Bay Area Park on Armand Bayou.  HASK provided sandwiches, chips, cookies, and soft drinks.  Bryan Mason led a short paddle trip on the bayou to see baby alligators.   23 members and guests attended.  It was huge success.  Average trip participation picked up.   It has become HASK’s premier annual event.   In 2009, the picnic was moved to 288 Lake and added a kayak demo.   Members, at their option, allow others to paddle their kayak.  Members have a wide range of kayaks in the club, including most of the top brands.   There were no local dealers for most of these kayaks.  The demo allows members to select a kayak and then order it or find a used one.   Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to try out different kayaks.   Members are encouraged to invite family members and guests to picnic.  Today, about 50 people attend the event.   Some folks just hang out and socialize.  Wet exit training is provided and there are safety personnel on the beach and on the water.  The event was held at Independence Park, Missouri City in 2017 due to construction at 288 Lake.  In 2018, club members and guests endured cold (40s) misty wind (15 - 20 mph) to hold (half of) another successful picnic at Twin Lakes. Some people even paddled.  Robin Hartman coordinated the 2019 Picnic a the Courtyard Marriott at Brooks Lake. 

And yes, there are plenty of kayaks to demo and fall in love with.  So be forewarned, the picnic could turn out to be quite expensive

HASK Picnic at 288 Lake, 2010

“In 2012 Linda Day showed up with this beautiful carbon fiber kayak, a Sterling Ice Kap.   Rolling it was a dream. 
I took the plunge and “invested” an Ice Kap of my own in 2013. So yes, the picnic can be expensive.
” Robert Stark 

Social Events

Carl and Linda Kuhnen really led the way on social events, including pot luck dinners, barbeque and bluegrass, musical events, etc.

Other events included dewberry picking, winery tours, museum exhibits, St. Arnold's Brewery tour, Knot tying at Karbach Brewery etc.  Those organizing socials include: Bob Scaldino, Bruce Asher, Carl Kuhnen, Chris Arceneaux, Cynthia Wisener, Jim Rosengren, John Grisaffi, Leslie Taylor, Linda Kuhnen, Linda Walden, Robert Stark.

HASK has had 54 social events with 810 participations thru 2020.  List of Social Events

Holiday party

In 2014 Kathryn Schuler and Bruce Asher along with many volunteers hosted the first HASK Holiday party at the Seabrook Sailing club.  Since then Leslie Taylor has hosted the party in her rather large garage (actually a warehouse).  These are pot luck events with lots of socializing and a little dancing.   

Other Events

Pimping Your Kayak

In 2013 George Watanabe organized the first Pimp Your Kayak event.  Members shared their skills to replace deck lines and bungees, install foam padding in the cockpit for a custom fit, and buffed/polished fiberglass boats.  It’s a great opportunity to pretty up your boat and have it outfitted for safe paddling.  George continued to coordinate the event in 2015 and 2016.  Robin Hartman led it in 2017.  Recently this event has been held at Leslie Taylor's wonderful warehouse in Houston.  Leslie coordinated the event in 2019.


HASK started with a simple posting of trips online.  This was done by a member in Dallas, Nancy Howse.  In 2003, Chris Kuhlman created and maintained an attractive website, listing our trips and other information.  In 2006, Robert Stark implemented Club Express for HASK's website hosting.  This provided tools to manage the club more efficiently, including member joining/renewing, event posting, event registration, and credit card payments.  Robert handed the website maintenance and development over to Kathryn Schuler in 2014.  Kathryn completely revised the website.  She developed or revised all of the content and took advantage of many of the advanced features of Club Express.  The content was brought in line with current HASK practices.  The result was an informative, beautiful, and easy to navigate website.   In 2016 Bill Ohsie became the HASK webmaster. 

                                                                                                                                                                                        Kathryn Shuler

Conservation and Community

HASK has helped with the annual Trash Bash to clean-up area water ways, provided on-water safety for triathlons, donated money to The Woods Project and Wounded Warrior (Team River Runner). For details visit Conservation and Community page on the HASK website.

Member Stories - Click on the story title to open or close the story detail.

Return to Paddle Trips

Accordion Widget
Finding Inner Peace Kayaking Christmas Bay in the Moonlight by Chris Arceneaux
Finding Inner Peace Kayaking Christmas Bay in the Moonlight by Chris Arceneaux

Winter Solstice is a time of reflection, forgiveness, and transforming inner peace. What a better setting for this to happen than in a kayak on Christmas Bay as the sun morphs into twilight and a full moon is shining down upon 10 souls dipping paddles in calm water. Wendel testifies to the existence of the elusive green flash. The flashing squid hat adds to his sincerity. A floating cadre of glowing nightsticks and holiday chatter glided past rafts of seagulls setting in for the night. Finned predators snare unsuspecting bait on the surface in their quest to bulk up for a colder season ahead. 
                                                                                                                            Photo by Natalie Wiest 
Unmistakable squawks of great blue herons gave indication of the looming shoreline. A soft crunch confirms a sandy bottom for an opportunity to stretch legs and adjust gear for ideal paddling comfort. Past regrets are left in the brine with each paddle stroke, broken promises are wiped clean in the bow wave. The useless emotion of pent up resentment is cast off into darkness as Christmas Bay returns with absolution, no penance required.

Coastal hunters who competed with the Karankawa Indians for the bounties of the bay, yipped, yapped, and howled prior to starting out on their nightly search for sustenance to share with growing pups. Rattlesnake Point on the Southwest shoreline provided another break before turning the kayaks to a 60˚heading for the final leg of a triangular route. A well-documented post-trip practice is to decompress at the take-out. Cheese, crackers and late-night laughs made the moment. A lone coyote nosing around the Amigo Lane shoreline was unconcerned with human existence.

This trip leader is grateful for the team that magically produced 3 hatch covers to fulfill a partner’s quest make this special outing. Packed up, strapped down, it was time to slip onto the highway. Thank you, Christmas Bay, HASK friends and family. Whether you need to or not, leave it all in the bay. Merry Christmas!  

Accordion Widget
The best-laid plans of mice and men - Tracking paddlers at night on Lake Charlotte by Carl Kuhnen
The best-laid plans of mice and men - Tracking paddlers at night on Lake Charlotte by Carl Kuhnen

During our safety talk for a large group on a night paddle on Lake Charlotte, I announced I’d be assigning everyone a number so we could count off verbally on the water in the darkness. There's no way to count glow sticks on about two dozen boats in the dark. One of our participants raised his hand and requested a single digit number so he could more easily remember it. I said “Sure, Phil, I’ll be Number 1 and you’ll be Number 2.” About half a mile from the put-in, I initiated our first paddler count by calling out “ONE!”  Only the frogs and crickets responded.

Carl Kuhnen

Accordion Widget
John Grisaffi has a suprise for paddlers on a San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge trip to Bocce Beach ... And got a new name. By John Grisaffi
John Grisaffi has a suprise for paddlers on a San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge trip to Bocce Beach ... And got a new name. By John Grisaffi

For a number of years, HASK held a paddle and overnight camping event from the FM 2918 boat ramp down the San Bernard River to its terminus in the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.  Overnight camping permission was granted by the SBNWR if the paddlers would police the beach and each collect one large bag of trash for disposal at the Refuge facility.  Refuge personnel maintain the area with the help of people like the HASK paddlers.  And being environmentally conscious, HASK is always willing to participate in keeping our waters clean and safe.

On one beautiful spring Saturday, the plan was to carry the boats to a safe height above the tides, have lunch on the beach, enjoy some bocce ball playtime, and set up for the overnight camping.  Unknown to all camping participants, I had prepared flan a day earlier, iced down my forward hatch, loaded the flans in individual ramekins into a sealed container, and delivered them to the beach.  After lunch, I presented the flans, along with paper plates and plastic spoons to each participant on the paddle.  Each was carefully removed from the ramekins, allowing the caramel to flow over the custard into the plates.  All were pleasantly astounded to have this sweet treat.  Julie branded me with the moniker "John Flan".  Some still remember this nick name and event.

John Grisaffi

Accordion Widget
Bocce Beach 2007-2009 by Carl Kuhnen
Bocce Beach 2007-2009 by Carl Kuhnen

For those who like beach camping, one of our favorite events for several years (eight trips between 2007 and 2009) was a one-night event at “Bocce Beach”. The trip originated when Carl and Linda Kuhnen, out exploring for new destinations, launched from the FM 2918 boat ramp in Brazoria County into the Intracoastal Waterway and turned downstream to the mouth of the San Bernard River.

The San Bernard River enters the Gulf of Mexico about eleven miles southwest of the natural channel of the much larger Brazos River. In 1929, the US Army Corps of Engineers diverted the outfall of the Brazos about seven miles southwestward in an attempt to reduce flooding and shoaling at the port of Freeport. This initiated the river’s construction of a new delta only four miles from the mouth of the San Bernard. Growth of the new delta and longshore sediment transport caused it to impinge on the San Bernard, slowly diverting its outfall southwestward.  By 1995, the river channel was visibly migrating westward. In 2005 sand completely closed the San Bernard mouth for the first time but closure was intermittent due to fluctuating river flow. For a number of years, the residents and fishermen along the San Bernard were landlocked and there were difficult currents in the ICW at the Brazos flood gates.

It was in 2007, during one of the periods that the river was open, that we happened to paddle downstream through a shallow calm lagoon, surrounded by white sand dunes, that was the river channel. From its original outfall, the river had been diverted almost four miles southwestward, where it emptied gently on this day into the Gulf of Mexico. We were surprised and delighted to find ourselves easily paddling across a beautiful secluded beach into the ocean! It looked like it would be a fabulous place to camp, so Carl led the first trip there in November 2007.

Because the beach happens to be part of the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, a permit was required. Although no one would ever have found us there, as good stewards of the HASK name, we requested a camping permit from the Refuge Manager, who was supportive but nonplussed because he had never been asked for a camping permit before. After a fairly lengthy period of courting him to establish our legitimacy and reliability, followed by a meeting and some paperwork, we were issued a permit. For our subsequent trips, approval was much easier. A condition of our permit was that we perform a service project for the Refuge, consisting of one or two activities.

On each trip, every participant collected a 20 gallon bag of beach trash and transported it back to Refuge HQ on the back of the kayaks at the end of the trip. This provided excellent boat control practice on the usually windy return paddle. There was always ample beach trash from the rivers to collect except for our November 2008 trip, about two months after Hurricane Ike inundated the Texas Coast. On that visit, we found a naked sand beach with some logs and other large debris but no trash small enough to pick up. The entire area had been swept clean.

On most trips, the Refuge Manager also asked us to walk the entire refuge beach, a five mile round trip, and report anything of concern or interest. Refuge personnel, he said, were so occupied with maintenance and administrative matters that they did not have the time to travel out to all areas of the Refuge. We seldom encountered much of note on our walks but we did find one sea turtle (dead), a pack of wild hogs, and a brush fire. The refuge always seemed appreciative of our reports and photos.

Linda’s late mother was indirectly responsible for the name “Bocce Beach”. Possibly in homage to my half-Italian ancestry, she had given us a bocce set some years earlier. Not having easy access to a bocce court like my grandfather did, we had seldom used it. But the clean flat sand of this beach seemed like a suitable surface, so Carl began the practice of surreptitiously dropping one bocce ball into participants’ kayak hatches as they packed on the boat ramp. At the beach, VOILA! A bocce set! The tradition and the name stuck.

Our trips were sometimes windy and sandy but always glorious. In our eight visits, we only saw a handful of other people, one of whom was a naked male through-hiker who simply nodded and walked on. The sound of the surf, the stars, and the lights on the Freeport horizon made a magical setting.

After 2011, we were no longer able to paddle to Bocce Beach. In winter of 2009, through advocacy of local residents and barge shippers, the Corps of Engineers dredged the San Bernard mouth open to the Gulf at its original location. Once the river no longer flowed down our channel, it quickly sanded up until we could no longer paddle it to Bocce Beach. In fact, in 2011 the dredged mouth of the San Bernard sanded shut again, negating the $6 MM project after only two years.

We occasionally do day trips down the San Bernard to check it out but we can no longer camp there. The river mouth is reportedly open again due to Hurricane Harvey flooding but it will not stay open for long because the Brazos delta has overrun it.

Friends of the River San Bernard has a good website that updates the status of this interesting and dynamic area .

Carl Kuhnen

Accordion Widget
And the thunder rolled and the lightening flashed ...Chris Arceneaux’s first HASK primitive camping trip. by Chris Arceneaux
And the thunder rolled and the lightening flashed ...Chris Arceneaux’s first HASK primitive camping trip. by Chris Arceneaux
In May 2005, I was ready to take the plunge in an all-out HASK primitive kayak camping trip. The club was headed to Sunday Beach on the Gulf, South of Port Lavaca via the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept Port O’Connor Paddling Trail. It was exciting packing the gear, getting psyched up with everyone making ready to paddle to the NE section of Matagorda Island. Getting there was fun, dodging some wicked looking oyster reefs and seeing lots of birds. Having Marilyn K. there to help with bird identification made it more fun. Everyone set up camp and shared dinner.

There seemed to be a slight change in the weather as a system blew in from the Gulf. The lightning was un-nerving. I felt like I would be fried at any moment. As the down drafts from the storm pounded my flimsy tent, I was trying to hold it up with my feet while flat on my back.  I know I made promises I didn’t keep, but Mother Nature must have been satisfied. The rolling storm went on its way.  The next day was spent exploring new trails through Fish Pass and taking photos of the raw Texas coast.  I can tell I was not forgiven though, a new set of lightning charged storms visited us the second night. Even more pathetic promises made.   Good trip.

Chris Arceneaux

Accordion Widget
Hypothermia on the Colorado River by John Grisaffi
Hypothermia on the Colorado River by John Grisaffi
In the fall of 2013 I arranged an overnight trip down the Colorado River from just above Bastrop, TX to a take-out in Bastrop the following day.  About 8 miles downstream from the put-in under the bridge on FM 969 is a conveniently located island in the river, frequently referred to as Scout Island.  The island easily accommodated the 9 paddlers in our group.  Ordinarily it is a quite beautiful, lazy paddle down the river, and this day was no exception.  That evening, another two paddlers joined us at our campsite, a father and his son.  They too had been on and in the river.  The son went over in his boat earlier in the day, and although he wasn’t injured, he was wet.  He and his dad hung out with our group, set up camp near us, and sat around the campfire until late.  I went to bed relatively early.

The next morning was literally freezing, with ice on our kayak decks and hatches.  Shortly after I exited my tent, the father approached me and asked if I had gloves, warm socks and hat for his son.  I inquired about the son and was told that he had drunk some whiskey the night before and had been throwing up this morning.  After locating the warm clothing, the dad and I approached the son’s tent, noticing that it had no rain fly, the item that would have provided another layer of insulation in the cold night.  The son appeared in the doorway of the tent, and upon speaking, I noticed his stuttering and shivering.  He said he was just sick and a little cold.  I corrected him and said he was hypothermic.  At that point I told the others what I believed about his condition.  Rob and Bob and others concurred and jumped into action.  They grabbed a blanket and wrapped the young man in it, restarted the fire, provided a chair near the fire, brought warm drink and food, and guided the son to the seat by the fire.  Within about an hour, the son was no longer shaking, his speech was in a normal range, and his dad was quite grateful for our expertise and readiness in that emergency.  It was made clear to both of them the necessity to be prepared for such situations with a change of dry clothes, and the need to provide improved sleeping conditions in cold weather. 

It is the training and resource readiness that HASK continues to encourage thru education, standards, and  bimonthly meetings that enabled that event to have a positive outcome.  Also, it was a good learning experience for all members of the trip and reminds us to be prepared for all emergencies.

John Grisaffi

Accordion Widget
Lake Jurassic by Wyatt Collier
Lake Jurassic by Wyatt Collier
I've paddled many places, all over Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Upstate New York, even the Caribbean; but I always come back to Armand Bayou.

It was a HASK picnic at Bay Area Park on a cool, misty, foggy day when we set out. Even though I had paddled on Armand since the 1980's I had never seen it look the way it did that day. There was a feeling of mystery, an aura of beauty that surrounded us. It would have been easy to say it might rain and we shouldn't go, but we didn't let that stop us.

We paddled upstream past the bridge and through the winding bayou until we reached the dogleg where you turn left, into the upper reaches of the bayou. The fog was especially heavy and the little lake slowly exposed itself to us. A dead tree stood magnificently at the mouth of the little lake, welcoming us. We could hear splashes in the distance, turtles, maybe mullet or even alligators. I felt as if at any moment I would see a dinosaur slowly lifting it's long neck out of the water, chewing on a mouthful of vegetation. The experience was enthralling.

About this time the Commodore looked back at us and said "Aren't you all glad we decided to come?"

I started calling this place Lake Jurassic.

God bless you, Robert.

Wyatt Collier

Accordion Widget
Memories from Grass Island, Shoalwater Bay, TX by Chris Arceneaux
Memories from Grass Island, Shoalwater Bay, TX by Chris Arceneaux

The good thing about Grass Island, it’s one of those places where a primitive camping kayaker feels like there was some effort to get there and you have the whole place to yourself. The downside for me is that I have to look at the trip calendar and photographs to remember which of the four trips held which memories. So, I’ll do my best. I will have to drop some names.

One of the best places to set up and put in is Charlie’s Bait camp in the Intracoastal Waterway between Port O’Connor and Seadrift. You park, you load and you go. No rocks, no mud, no concrete ramp. Its sand. And who can object to a little sand while loading back up on Sunday morning?

Very often dolphins greet you in the canal and the pass to Shoalwater Bay, a very shallow, enclosed system just north of Espirito Santo Bay. Poring over satellite imagery when planning this trip helps the paddler find the slightly deeper route on the 5.5 mile path to the camping destination.

Setting up camp is a snap. The chosen bivouac area on Grass Island is a salt pan, comprised of a very fine sand too salty for vegetation. If you look closely to the surface, you literally find millions of tiny sand balls made by the unique feeding style of ghost crabs. More on the crabs later. We all leave things behind on these overnight events. It usually results in an “Aw darn”. Julie P. was sure she left her tent poles. That was an “Oh Shit!”.  She looked and looked, no luck. Between some spare poles Bob K. had and few extra bamboo poles not holding up the privy, we were so ready to jury-rig a HASK-only contraption to hold up her tent. Don’t you know it, she found her poles. “Aw darn!” All that work for nothing.

We usually found enough driftwood on the island or neighboring island for a campfire. On one moonless night, Bob K. pointed out passing satellites. Who knew?  It helps to have a rocket scientist in the club. We were blessed with no light pollution. On another night, another trip (I think), Wyatt C, me, and Julie P. had so much to talk about, fueled only slightly by adult beverages. So much, that George W. gave us a stern admonishment to “Shut Up, I’m trying to sleep”. So, we quieted down …some.  Then around midnight, the front that we were somewhat expecting blew in. That shut us up as we flattened our chairs and ran for our tents.

I had to look back at the weather archives. We had 20 mph winds with gusts to 27 mph all night and into the morning of departure day. It was so bad that we were ready stay another night. But at midday, with ears glued to the marine radio weather channel, the winds became more forgiving, enough to shove off for Charlie's. It was a slog, dig, stroke, dig. It’s tough to make real progress in 12” of water. One of members couldn’t avoid weather-cocking to the left. Thank goodness for tow lines. A little tension at the bow kept the offending kayak pointed to the bay exit.

Did I mention the crabs? Another night, another fire, on our last visit to Grass Island, Willem had this awesome, tactical flashlight. He scanned it across the salt pan.  Ghost crabs, by the tens of thousands were on the march, headed north to a wet patch of salt wort. It didn’t matter if they bumped and stack up against our chairs or right into the fire. No rhyme or reason, the females were not carrying any eggs. A mystery. Where’s a marine biologist when you need one? The next night, only a few crabs were doing their little ghost crab maniacal forays over the sand.

Grass Island, a great base camp, a place to fry fresh caught speckled trout or grill a big ole cowboy burger. Paddle south past Steamboat Island to Matagorda Island. You may be greeted by endless flocks of Brown Pelicans or a scrawny coyote scavenging fish carcasses.  Join us next time, and bring ear plugs if you plan to turn in early.

Chris Arceneaux

Accordion Widget
Stranded Pelican by Kim Head
Stranded Pelican by Kim Head
On a December 2014 HASK paddle into Mac Lake, our group of six paddlers encountered an exhausted pelican dangling from a tree. The pelican was hanging by one foot, which was entangled in fishing line. It was at the end of the lowest branch on the tree, about 15 feet above the water, a single branch sticking about 10 feet sideways from the trunk towards the center of the bayou. We tried unsuccessfully to free the bird.

Working from kayaks under the pelican, after several tries we managed to throw a tow rope weighted with a heavy carabiner over the branch. Then we tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the pelican or to break the branch off, by paddling two kayaks in opposite directions and pulling on the rope. After half an hour we felt we needed to resume our paddle and abandon the pelican.

We might have freed the bird if we had a rope saw available to cut the branch. We also might have been able to use the rope to climb the tree, then shinnied out along the branch to cut the fishing line. In either case, we could have inappropriately endangered paddlers, exposing them to pecking by the pelican or a fall from the tree. Of course, the pelican could also have been further injured in the planned fall.

In retrospect, I think we should have first assessed the potential danger of close contact with a pelican, and set a time budget to assure the planned paddle didn’t fall too far behind schedule.

Kim Head

Accordion Widget
Win some, lose some – Lessons learned on Tres Palacios Bay camping trip by Carl Kuhnen.
Win some, lose some – Lessons learned on Tres Palacios Bay camping trip by Carl Kuhnen.

On Memorial Day weekend of 2014, a friend of Natalie Hansen’s generously offered to let 24  of us camp on his ranch on the eastern shore of Tres Palacios Bay near Collegeport. I have no idea why so many people signed up to camp on a warm sticky weekend but there was lots of enthusiasm. A neighbor had kindly mowed the tall grass and sprayed for mosquitos in our camping area, so we did not even need to coat ourselves with insect repellent. We were to have the use of a bathroom in a vacant house on the property, which may explain the large attendance. Two days before the event, we learned that the house had been invaded by bees and was not usable, so we scrambled to buy a privy tent online. Amazon delivered it to our house from Memphis less than 24 hours later, so we were golden.

The ranch location is beautiful, quiet and isolated on the bayshore, almost directly across from the town lights  of Palacios. We set up camp on a bluff above the bay and built a campfire on a shell beach next to the water. We told lies and watched the stars till we got sleepy.

On Sunday morning, we caravanned southward to a small shell beach at the end of the county road near Oyster Lake. Parking was tight and I was the last one in. Our standard practice is to gather the group for a safety and instruction talk before anyone gets in the water. But as I hustled to get ready to paddle while attempting to corral the scattered participants, several inexperienced paddlers got ahead of me and launched. The moderate east wind immediately blew them away from shore towards the open bay. Fortunately, a couple of experienced club members quickly jumped in their boats to escort the new folks. I hurriedly regrouped everyone for the pre-trip talk and we headed out into Tres Palacios Bay.

We had a long lovely day of paddling, heading up the bay to the Coon Islands where there is a chain of shell islands (Gilligan’s is one) and a partly emergent shipwreck. We soaked in the warm water during a long leisurely lunch. As large as it was, the group did quite well on the water.

Eventually we paddled back to our put-in beach, returning about five hours after we had departed. Paddling sweep, I was one of the last ones in and I was bewildered to see Carole Penning frantically jumping on the beach waving her arms at me. Fearing a serious problem, I quickly paddled straight to her. She informed me that I had paddled off that morning and had left my wallet, phone, and GPS in a clear dry bag on the beach. A husband and wife had noticed this, investigated, and then kept my stuff in their vehicle all day while they fished. When I identified myself, they cheerfully returned it all to me and I left them a reward as thanks. I have felt good about their honesty ever since.

After another beautiful evening on our private beach and a short day paddle on Memorial Day, we headed home. A few days later the emails began to circulate. “Who else came down with an itchy rash on their ankles and legs and up to the waist? Does anyone have any idea what it might be? It’s not poison ivy and it’s much itchier than mosquito bites. And it’s still getting worse.”   And then from someone “Chiggers! These are chigger bites. Hundreds of them!”

It turned out that most of us used no insect repellent because there were no mosquitos, so we were prime tenderloin for the chiggers. Few of us had ever had anything like that and we all learned a lesson.

Carl Kuhnen

Accordion Widget
Musical Events by Carl Kuhnen
Musical Events by Carl Kuhnen
I like to combine paddling outings with other activities and I love to hear live music in small venues. That requires some stars to align but it has worked out twice so far.

In April 2013 we did a three day car camping weekend on Lake Texana with Saturday and Sunday day paddles and Friday evening music at The Rear Window, a little music listening room in Ganado, Texas that is named after the Alfred Hitchcock movie. Ten of us enjoyed dinner and the singing and guitar playing of a Frenchman (I believe) named Claude Bourbon.

Claude plays a unique blend of blues, Spanish, and Middle Eastern styles in his guitar compositions with tremendous speed and lightness in his long fingers. He is tall and middle aged and has long curly luxurious hair, a good-looking guy evidently. He told us that the gig in Ganado was his first US show. As I wondered why an international musician would choose tiny Ganado for his US debut, he said that his wife does all his bookings and is not familiar with US geography. He said he had rented a car at IAH and driven the 90 miles or so down Hwy 59 to Ganado, picking up a speeding ticket on the way. The next evening he had a show in “Abilene or somewhere. By the way, how far is that?”

Total audience for the show was 14, including ten HASKers. The Rear Window is owned by a young couple who also owns a café down the street that will cater a modest but nice dinner for $10. Cover charge was $15, so total take for the evening was no more than $350 for the dinner and show. The Rear Window has no liquor license so they would give away glasses of wine and contributions were optional. I knew there was not enough revenue to pay for his airfare, rental car, lodging, meals, and speeding ticket.

Fortunately Mr. Bourbon was saved by his good looks, as the women in the audience bought up all his CDs and stood giggling in line as long as possible for his autograph.

Given the evening’s financial results, I figured we’d never hear of him again but I was wrong. His tour was successful enough that he visits the US every year, particularly Texas. We have seen him again at a house concert and he has a fairly extensive Texas itinerary this spring (2018). Always do what your wife books you for.

Carl Kuhnen

Accordion Widget
Soul-soothing Virtues of Louisiana Bayou Country by Willie Younger.
Soul-soothing Virtues of Louisiana Bayou Country by Willie Younger.

Two times I have accepted Chris Arceneaux’s invitation to explore his beloved bayou country by kayak.   There among the alligators and bullfrogs, I found the soul-soothing virtues of these lush lowlands.

A wondrous web of tannin-stained water trickles across this mystical landscape, lapping at the trunks of the cypress trees, as it relentlessly searches for the sea.  Spanish moss hangs righteously from ancient oaks and conveys the distinct sense that this is where Mother Nature stores her infinite and indisputable wisdom.  Giant lily pads float about like Irish-green barges filled with impish, but invisible, Leprechauns bawdily celebrating Earth Day.  Ospreys zealously protect their young nestled in their well-woven nests; and do so with the parental pride, pomp and ceremony of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard.  And, at night the creatures of the swamp rise up to loudly send their praise heavenward in a mesmerizing song which delights the angels. And, the web-toed natives, who proudly display their resilient French heritage, cannot be ignored.

Thus, I was the very first to enlist in this May’s expedition of discovery in Cajun country.  But, I was forced to yield to a higher child bride.  Sadly, I had to withdraw, after she sternly revealed that it was also the time of our oldest grandson’s high school graduation.  

Yet, I would be sorely remiss if I did not profusely thank Chris for measurably broadening my appreciation for this invigorating piece of paddling paradise.  Ultimately, I’d put this HASK trip forth as a priceless gift from a generous friend. 

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Willie Younger