The holidays are over and now we focus on…

umm, well,

on lots of things.

First up, the BRAC has to change the grant again. We ran into some scheduling conflicts and therefore have some money to spend before the grant cycle is up in March. We’ve decided to host a Black River AOC Summit. It will be a chance for locals and people who work in the restoration & conservation industries to see our projects and how they are working to remove our BUIs (Beneficial Use Impairments) and de-list the river. Dates are being considered and a call for speakers will go out soon. Once the summit is planned, we also have to put together the next grant request to begin in April.

Then, in April and May, we’ll host the Paddling Film Festival again with proceeds going to the LoCo ‘Yaks’ scholarship fund. Last year this event was such a fun time. Great movies and visiting with great friends while enjoying delicious food & drinks… It’s a selection of award-winning short paddling films. We’ll have 10+ films to choose from, but will narrow it down to 2 hours of viewing time.

And, of course, BRCU’18 is May 5 & 6. If you’ve never taken part in a Black River Clean-Up, you really should! It’s the funnest, dirtiest, grossest great time you’ll have all year. And there’s FREE lunch afterward. (and free beer. sshhhh.)

Oh, and then there’s the Grand Opening of The LoCo ‘Yak Shak, a paddling gear resale/ consignment shop as well as LoCo ‘Yaks’ headquarters. There’s a wall to re-build, some signage to order & organizing to do, but we plan to open mid-to-late May. 

Plus all the year-end accounting is due, tax forms, payroll, more tax forms, and some other government stuff that requires too much of my time. Running a non-profit is not even close to the “club” we started 6 years ago. That was going to be fun. This is work. A lot of work. I need a raise. And a nap.


Last weekend was the ACA’s Adaptive Paddling Workshop in Big Bay, MI. You don’t have to be a paddling instructor to take this course, but since I am, it counts as an Endorsement to my teaching certificate as well as renewal training to help keep my certification active for another 4 years. Now Robb and I are both certified to teach students of all abilities, as long as they meet the Essential Eligibility Criteria as set forth by the American Canoe Association.

The workshop was four days at Bay Cliff Health Camp — it was so beautiful, and welcoming, and relaxing, and perfect. So perfect, in fact, we are seriously considering buying land in the U.P. Maybe not immediately, but definitely while Joey is still young enough to be brainwashed into believing that everyone camps and internet is not a lifeline.

Anyway, back to the workshop… The first two days were classroom & lab work: learning about the technical side of things. HIPAA basics, protocol for student interviews, scenarios that we may encounter, adaptive equipment options, building & customizing kayaks, etc. It was a lot to take in in two days, plus homework. Robb and Joey were with me, well, staying in the same little house as me. I would see them randomly throughout the day, but it was super weird not to be with Joey all day long. Robb did a great job being the “stay-at-home” dad (….if the shoe fits…).

We drove all day Wednesday. What Google Maps says is 10 hours, easily turns into 12+ with a 4 month old, but regardless, Joey is great at road trips. She really is my daughter. Oh, the places we’ll go, my child. Arriving in the dark, after a monsoon during the last 30 miles, I was ready to snooze. Joey, on the other hand, was ready to start rolling over in her sleep and thus scaring herself without ever actually waking up — which scared us, but we managed. Thursday was long, and after interrupted sleep, even longer. Then Thursday night was even worse — she wouldn’t stop rolling over. I got no sleep. At 4AM I was ready to pack up and leave. I couldn’t focus on work & learning with her freaking out all night. Robb said leaving was out of the question. So during the first break of the day, I told one of our instructor trainers what was up (additionally, the stress of it all had made me a little sick) and he was so understanding and accommodating. Willing to help me figure out whatever I needed to do to stay and finish the weekend. They were amazing.

Thursday and Friday afternoon was on-water time to show what we were capable of, more or less. Two of us were kayak instructors, and two were guides (one with no formal training, one with lots just no certification). Five others were of various careers — pediatrician, physical therapists, disability benefit coordinator. Some were doing this for work, some were doing it for personal reasons. Everyone was doing it for love.

We played games to build on our teaching and teamwork skills. In teams of two, one paddled with our eyes closed, while our partner directed us to a specific location. We did a mock group paddle around the harbor, and we had to perform a towing-rescue without using a tow rope. On Friday, we had to complete an assisted rescue, from both sides of the capsize. Lake Superior is as cold as they say. And apparently this was a warmish-cold day, being at the end of the season and uncommonly hot for September. It took my breath away. I was wearing a two-piece dry suit. But, wow, cold. That water is seriously cold. How cold? You ask… So cold that kayak companies don’t offer straight rentals — they only do Guided Trips, because you know, cold water.

Saturday, we met our student, Jim. He is so funny and super laid-back. I kind of wanted to bring him home and keep him for my grandpa, even though he isn’t quite that old. We chose a kayak, adapted it for him, and then headed to the pool for a swim test. Jim had started a class like this recently, so he’s already done a wet exit. That made things easy. The kayak adaptations stayed intact and nothing needed changed. A few reinforcements and we were ready for the open water. We took one of The LoCo ‘Yaks Shak’s Conduit 13s and another team was using it. Robb & I were excited to see the work they were doing. Some of the other teams had a lot more work than we did. It was a super long day for them. And exhausting. But totally worth it.

Sunday we met at a little city park near an ore dock in Marquette. There was an ADA roller paddlecraft launch located across the street from a public Lake Superior beach. Bay Cliff brought lunch for everyone — a U.P. specialty — pasties (pronounced past-ees). Oh my! So delicious, and so filling I had to save half for afterward. We brought home frozen ones for the fam.

A smooth launch and a slow, quiet paddle up the mouth of the Dead River made for a successful day. We didn’t get far. Some of us were slower than others. Jim called us “Team Geriatrics” for having the oldest guy in the group. I, surprisingly, was not the oldest instructor in our class. Before we split for the day, we each received our certificate of completion or endorsement, and those of us who wanted to, stayed for a personal evaluation. I stayed to hear what they had to say, and I’m glad I did. They confirmed that I’m in the right place doing what I love. People who didn’t know me four days ago, seeing my passion, commenting on my professionalism, commending my perseverance, and thanking me for being an ACA Instructor. Their constructive criticism? Preempted with “We understand you just had a baby,” they said I need more practice time on the water. I could’ve told me that. Oh, wait! I have. But Joey is kind of bossy sometimes. Priorities.

Once off the water and loaded up, I picked up Robb & Joey to go out to dinner with the APW Instructor Trainers, some classmates, and one of our students & his fiancee. It was nice to relax with everyone. The margarita gave me an instant headache, and the ladies passed Joey around for some baby-loving. After dinner we headed back to camp to get ready for an early morning departure. Plus Sami, one of my classmates (& Bay Cliff employee) had to come get some Joey love before we left. (She has a mild case of baby-fever.)

Thanks to a story from Jim, we added a little adventure to the drive home — Our 4 month old daughter has had her toes in the waters of four of the five Great Lakes. Something we had not accomplished in our 40+ years, until now, with her, because of her. She is a world changer, that’s for sure… Lake Ontario, ready or not, here we come!!

It’s Labor Day Weekend and Hurricane Harvey has decided to crash the end-of-summer parties…

While it looks like there won’t be much fun time on the water for the next few days, we have started to prepare for winter activities — no we don’t have a secret sled hill or snowmobiles, but we are working on fundraisers, AOC projects, and various other forms of community outreach. 

Our Spaghetti Dinner is coming up on October 18th, and will be held at the Lorain Elks Lodge again. Also in October, we will be hosting two viewings of Bringing Back The Black River at the Lorain Historical Society. Check out the Events tab for details.

In September, I (Stephanee) will be attending an ACA Adaptive Paddling Workshop (APW) to add the Adaptive Endorsement to my teaching certificate. Robb obtained his adaptive endorsement last year. We (LoCo ‘Yaks) are working to secure a grant to provide adaptive paddling classes and adventures, free of charge, to physically disabled Lorain County residents. We hope to begin scheduling for this program in 2018.

The Black River AOC Advisory Committee’s (BRAOCAC) support grant has been extended through March 2018 and will include a few new projects: 

  1. Painting 300-500 Lorain County storm drains with “Lake Erie Starts Here”.
  2. Printing informational brochures on Black River history and restoration projects.
  3. River tours via kayak or river boat to see the restoration efforts first-hand and to learn about our MDPEP.

Additionally, we are still scheduling MDPEPs for any school, community, or youth group. We’ll even schedule one for your family or anyone who’s interested in learning how to prevent marine debris — book club, wine club, bowling league team, high school sports teams, 4H club, science class, student council, … We will also be scheduling a few public MDPEPs for smaller groups who are curious. 


Keep an eye on our website and social media for more information. We’ll keep updating as new details are established.


… And there we have it — blog #2 is in the books. Look at me go.


Hello Friends! Welcome to the LoCo ‘Yaks’ new website and blog. First & foremost, THANK YOU for being here. Whether you just found us, or you’ve been around since the very first BRCU, thank you for supporting the LoCo ‘Yaks. We couldn’t be who we are without the help of our amazing volunteers and donors. We appreciate every single minute of time and every penny donated to help us support our mission of promoting fun, safe, and eco-friendly open-water kayak instruction and educational adventures for all ages and abilities, while supporting the maintenance and preservation of our natural waterways. We hope to see you at an event soon. Whether it be a fundraiser, a clean-up, an awareness function, or educational workshop – we love getting to know our LoCo friends.


We are making edits and additions to this new site almost daily, so please check back often for updates… and, I’m going to try my hand at this blogging thing. I’m not sure what I’m doing, as I’ve never been much of a blog-follower, but I’ve been reading more parenting blogs and hoping it will inspire me here. We really appreciate your patience as we juggle the craziness of growing our non-profit and managing the LLC, while adjusting to new family life at home. (Who new an infant could consume us like this?! — Josephina really appreciates your kindness & understanding too.) I have a reminder on my calendar to get beck here regularly to let you all know what kind of fun stuff the we have coming up next. And if you should ever need more information, please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts or email/ text/ call us. We’re happy to help – that’s what we do, because we are LoCo ‘Yaks, after all.