Friday, December 21, 2007
It'll be a busy week or so. We fly out back to San Diego way pre-sparrow fart on Sunday to catch up with FliesWithKiwiBird's family. And good friends with their new wee ones are heading in from Homer, San Francisco and Boulder. And our wee one gets to see for the second time this year his great-grand mothers. And it's also his christening, so a bit of everything for everyone.
Hope you remain safe out there, and I look forward to catching up with you all, anon.
I'll leave you with one of NZ's favourite Christmas carols, from Fred Dagg:
We three kings of Orient are
One on a tractor, two in a car
One on a scooter
Tooting his hooter
Following yonder star
Star of wonder
Star of bright
Star of bewdy, she'll be right
Star of glory, that's the story
Following yonder star.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Dan has his own fencing business, and like most self-employed folks, times can get tight and boats have to be sold to help pay the rent. I was lucky enough to be first in line to write a cheque out for Dan. Though little did I know that SandyBottom was right behind me, and FliesWithKiwiBird hadn’t quite heard me when I mentioned I was taking the cheque book to work with me that morning…
Dan even delivered the boat to my office yesterday.
Thus I’m now the proud owner of a Mirage 19 to add to the fleet. It’s probably a 1997, when Paul Hewitson was originally making Mirage kayaks in
Later that evening Dan even sent me the lyrics to Hall & Oates’s lyrics, She’s Gone. I very nearly wept.
She's Gone Oh I, Oh I'd
better learn how to face it
She's Gone Oh I, Oh I'd
pay the devil to replace her
She's Gone - what went wrong
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Well worth the read, Gurney covers the thousand years of events that finally lead to what we now use in all manner of getting from points A to B, blithely unaware of the thousands of lives and ships lost in the pursuit of perfecting this ingenious piece of equipment. And the pure bloody-mindedness in one compass-maker’s assertion over another that his compass was the only one – and it only took many more losses of ships and lives to prove who was finally right.
From lodestone, to dry-card compass, to liquid compass, to gyrocompass – reflected in our own personal lives by the small liquid orb we unerringly trust on the foredeck of our kayaks.
I dip my paddle to those who lives were dedicated to developing what Victor Hugo so sweetly called, “the soul of the ship”.
Monday, December 10, 2007
I’ve often wondered at this archaic European (read: British), and somewhat also American, fixation for a skeg, as someone (Kiwi) once called “a failed rudder”. They often go wrong and the skeg box takes up valuable room in the aft hatch.
As naval architect John Winters notes, “because a rudder can develop greater lift by increasing the angle of attack relative to the flow, it is more effective than a skeg.”
Many of my local paddling pals have skegs, and are always tut-tutting at rudder users, mainly complaining that we have none of the skills necessary to paddle without a rudder. Pshaw! That’s near the same mentality that had the British struggling in their amateur way towards the South Pole, decrying those who did have the correct gear and experience for the job. Many rudder users started off with skegs, and dutifully learned those skills. Now that many of us have upgraded to rudders, we can appreciate the benefits that a rudder can add to the kayaking experience, particularly on an expedition-type trip with rough and windy conditions.
As Paul Caffyn explained, having completed circumnavigations of New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Japan and this year part of Greenland, he averaged 31 miles per day in kayaks with no skeg or rudder, 34 miles per day in kayaks with skegs, and 39 miles per day in kayaks with rudders.
I’m sure that Freya will have noticed around the coast of NZ, that all the Kiwi boats which join her for a few hours have rudders. This isn’t because Kiwi paddlers don’t have skeg-only-related skills, it’s because they know what’s best for the tough conditions the NZ coastline and weather throws at them. Justine and Barry will also find this. Give them their credit, the Ozzies feel just the same – Laurie Ford is a true rudder proponent, refining them now for nigh on 30 years for his local Tassie conditions.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
SandyBottom was also out there, doing a 20-miler to the dam and back, but our paths didn't cross.
Friday, December 7, 2007
“No one paddles to be rescued.”
I think this was Sam Crowley, but he touches on a theme dear to my heart. Kayaking is about self-sufficiency, thus we each have a responsibility for our own personal safety.
“Any misguided fool who goes to sea with the implicit belief that someone will come to their rescue, is a bloody idiot.”
Mind you, a few years after he said this, David did set off his EPIRB when sails were shredded and fuel gone, off the coast of NZ, and they accepted fuel to stooge back to the Bay of Islands. Reading his autobiography, Shapes on the Wind, a few weeks ago, I don't think he ever really forgave himself for doing so.
"Never put your body where your mind hasn’t been first.”
”Inspiration without nuts and bolts practicality and bit-by-bit efficiency is futile.”
“The fact is, in real canoeing, that is, in wild and unknown lands, you find no smooth roads to wheel a boat upon…”
“Sea kayaking is about journeying. Sea kayaking is about exploring. Sea kayaking is about sharing experiences and memories with others. There is more to sea kayaking than just paddling.”
“Paddling efficiently must be every one’s aim.”
“If I have learned one thing in my 54 years, it is that it is very good for the character to engage in sports which put your life in danger from time to time. It breeds a saneness in dealing with day to day trivialities which probably cannot be got in any other way, and a habit of quick decisions.”
Laurie Ford also thought, in relation to Nevil Shute (his favourite author, and one of mine) and putting your life in danger, that “… if you are not doing so - then you are not being adventurous.”
“Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe.”
Henry David Thoreau
"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."
"... a skeg is a failed rudder."
Sandy, Qajaq NZ
"I want some adventure."
Kristen, 1990, while sitting on Southbank on the Thames, London, on her way into work.
"I want to go shopping."
Theresa (flatmate, worked in same C&L office), in response.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Jandals are an icon in NZ - Ozzies call them thongs, as do the French, Yanks are more likely to call them flip-flops, as do the Brits. In Hawaii they're called slippers and in Guam zorries... But they're that ubiquitous bit of summer clothing that nearly every Kiwi finds an essential piece of wardrobe kit.
The modern design rubber jandal was first patented in New Zealand in 1957 by Maurice Yock. On a trip to Hong Kong, Mr Yock had seen a similar product called a Japanese Sandal manufactured from plastic by John Cowie & Co. The Japanese were wearing their "Japanese Sandals" made of woven and wooden bases for centuries before the word "Jandal" was coined. And legend has it that the word jandal came from the combination of Japanese sandals: Japanese + sandals = jandals.
And, of course, the Ozzies think they invented the jandal - didn't, of course.
National Jandal Day is all for a good cause. Last year 1,440 lives were saved by NZ's Surf Lifeguards. NZ has a drowning rate twice that per capita of Australia, which is pretty shocking, so let's hope everyone wears their jandals to work today!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
- Lay flat on the floor with legs slightly bent, and crunch your stomach to 30 degrees.
- Lift your knees to your chest and touch elbows with each rep.
- Now lift your legs in the air so your body forms an "L" and point your hands forward, palms-down just off the ground. Keep crunching!
- Keep your legs in the air and put your hands behind your head. Bring your legs up to meet your elbows with every crunch.
- Now bend your knees and continue crunching in a bicycle motion, twisting so you bring your opposite knee to your elbow with each crunch.
- Lay on your back with one foot flat on the floor close to your buttocks. Cross the other leg on your knee. Twist while crunching so your elbow touches your crossing knee.
- Repeat with your other leg crossed.
- Back to the "L" position with hands extended, and flutter kick while you crunch, touching your toes with the opposite hand each time.
Monday, December 3, 2007
But I’d rather be toasty than hypothermic, so headed off with a skin layer of Icebreaker merino, followed by a Mysterioso M-tech top, Fuzzy Rubber on that, topped off with a semi-dry Rapidstyle spray jacket. For leggings I wore Mysterioso M-tech with a pair of Fuzzy Rubber Sticky Buns pants over that. On my feet, a pair of SmartWool liner socks, waterproof socks over that, encased with a pair of NRS Boundary shoes. Hands wise, a pair of 2mm neoprene gloves from Kayak Tom and, wrapped around my Greenland paddle, a pair of 3mm Rapidstyle metalite mitts. Taking my beanie and Tilley hat off my head did help cool me down a bit. And I drank heaps.
The wind had got up a bit by the time I got back to the put in, and I felt decidedly chilled by the time I had the boat back atop the ol’ 4-Runner, which made me feel a wee bit better. I’m not built for long-term (read: any term) immersion in dang chilly waters, so while I’m winter paddling, dressing for immersion it is.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
There's been a bit of controversy (what's new) over whether it's a true "kayak" they're paddling; but who really cares. They're doing it, they're hurting, and I hope they make it. Others haven't.
[Photo above of the boys leaving Forster, Australia on November 13. That's a Mirage kayak seeing them off, a modified version of which Andrew McAuley attempted his Tasman crossing in.]
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007
For the first time dad’s admitted that he’s starting to feel his age. Not bad for 86. But if I could just get him to lay down the chain saw for his winter season’s supply of firewood and pay someone to lug all the rolls up the bank, I reckon he’d feel a lot better, and perhaps even reduce what he calls his “cardiac incidents”. But it’s hard to convince someone of this who indignantly proclaims that he’s always done every thing for himself, ALWAYS!
So I’m leaving the family and paddle at home – we’ll take his new grandson back some time next year, when he’s crawling and really creating havoc – and spending a few weeks to catch up. And hopefully we’ll even get away up the coast in the boat for a week or so.
So this ol’ blog will probably be a bit quiet until after Thanksgiving. But dad and I’ll raise a glass to you all.
And the photo? That’s dad’s home built sander, out in his workshop.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Back in a few days...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Most nights I ate sushi two doors down, on 3rd Ave, just below 80th. Apparently the place closed down a week or so after I left – pals said that my two years of eating there had kept it afloat. Most nights I ate at the sushi bar, as the lead chef, a Japanese waiting for a Green Card, had taken a bit of a shine to me and slipped me new morsels to experiment on. (If anyone can read Japanese, I still haven’t been able to translate the message he wrote on a baseball he gave me one evening.)
Anyway, the bar soon filled up with a young group of lads, whose parents and elders moved into the back room to eat in more quiet. They were from Uruguay, and dead mad about rugby. Ha, and here was the Kiwi also dead mad on rugby. We immediately set about saving the world. The boys were college students (what Americans call high school and us college) and desperately wanted to put together a tour of NZ to play school boy rugby. Did I know anyone who could help? Of course, I said – NZ’s a small place. I wrote down on a paper napkin the names of the principals of the schools I knew – Tauranga Boys’ College where my mum had taught for 16 years and was senior mistress; Hamilton Boys’ High where an old colleague of mum’s was now principal and was once an All Black; Selwyn College, in Auckland, where an uncle had taught maths; and Auckland Boys’ Grammar, where the ex-husband had gone. They were thrilled and tucked the napkin away.
“Would you like to meet my dad?”, the young man asked. “He’s also a rugby player. In fact, he was the young medical student, Roberto Canessa, who was on the plane that crashed in the Andes in 1972.” I gaped at Canessa junior. The story of the young rugby players who had survived for 72 days in the Andes had been one of the great stories of my childhood, and I had avidly read and re-read Piers Paul Read’s book, Alive, when it was published in 1974. “I would love to meet him”, I replied. Canessa junior slipped off his bar school and soon returned with his dad. He was quite short in stature, about 5ft4, but trim and strong looking. He beamed as he shook my hand, delighted to meet a Kiwi. The feeling was mutual. Roberto talked a little about his experience trapped on the mountain, but became even more animated when he told me about his talks to local Uruguayan school children, telling them of their struggles and fortitude and comradeship, taking with him relics of their stay on the mountain. I felt honored to have met him.
A few hours later I returned two doors up 3rd Ave to my apartment, raced up to the eighth floor and rang mum in NZ, saying, “you’ll never guess what just happened!”
Monday, October 29, 2007
Paddling on a long term expedition with a partner is a lot like a marriage, and not only in the more traditional sense of the word. Going into it with eyes wide open, a big heart, lots of respect and patience are key ingredients. This is perhaps why engagements (for expeditions and life!) are so helpful - do we pull together? Can we laugh at the same problems and cry at the same joys? Will the faster of the two slow down to enjoy the walk with the slower one? Will we be there for each other when either of us really needs it the most?
Not everyone can paddle, or live, alone. And, of course, some can and do. Those who do paddle solo are often those with a very happy partnership back home - maybe they are also the happiest soloists? Knowing that there's someone at home who loves them that they can share all their experiences with on their return?
One of my biggest feelings of loss when my mum died at far too young an age, now just six years ago, was that I couldn't call her anymore from somewhere in the world and say "Mum, you'll never guess what just happened!", and spend hours with her laughing on the phone over it. I have someone else to share those stories with now, and often we've experienced them together, especially since I learned to walk slower; and perhaps that's also why I'm happy to paddle solo when the opportunity arises.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
On his return, Cook was asked, if deep down in his heart did he believe he had made his goal, and whether he had indeed set his foot right on the North Pole. His response made me smile: "Oh, I couldn't say that. I got to where there wasn't any latitude."
The saddest part of the entire tale is not only the behaviour of Peary during and after his last attempt for what he considered was rightfully only his to attain, but the despicable behaviour of his financial backers, his sponsors, who we know so well nowadays as pretty well integral to any modern expedition. Nothing was different even in the early twentieth century. Those businessmen belonging to the Peary Arctic Club and National Geographic, among others, destroyed the reputation of a seemingly honest man, even to the point of refuting Cook's earlier claim to being the first to summit Mt. McKinley. At least National Geographic later apologized for its actions, in 1988.
(Then again, what may really be the most saddest part of the book, is the warning that with the Arctic ice cap's current melting rate of 9% per decade as the world's climate grows warmer, that ice cap will disappear before the end of this century.)
But the tale of true adventure and hardship shines through for both Cook and Peary - nothing can detract from that. "Lost in a landless, spiritless world, in which the sky, the weather, the sun and all was a mystery," wrote Cook of his fears as he made his way.
And I also appreciate that the tale is yet not completely resolved, and may never be. Ah, the stuff of true adventure and hardship.
Friday, October 26, 2007
"I have melded my mind with the heavens, communed with the universal consciousness, and experienced the inner calm that externalization brings, and it all started because I bought a car with a G.P.S. ... After a few weeks, it occurred to me that I could no longer get anywhere without [the GPS]. Any trip slightly out of the ordinary had me typing the address into her system and then blissfully following her satellite-fed commands. I found that I was quickly shedding all vestiges of geographic knowledge."
Obviously tongue-in-cheek in some respects, but this does stir my consciousness. How dependent are we becoming on the technology we use every day, and then of that, that which we take with us on our expeditions (sounds more adventurous than "trips" ;) - our GPS, EPIRB, VHF, cell phone, iPod, camera, Blackberry, Nokia NSeries, etc?
Some of these acronyms are definitely necessities from a safety perspective. But are we overloading our senses just that bit too much when we take away with us everything else to barrage our senses - what we may now also think of as necessities?
And then are we losing our last "vestiges of geographic knowledge"? This may even scare me more - losing that innate sense of "being there" that is so integral to actually being out on water with just a paddle to steer me by.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
And all for a good cause - not only her only self-awareness of the fun of life, but also raising awareness for breast cancer, of which her mother is currently fighting.
Big adventures are on the horizon for this wee lass, some which can't even yet be talked about! (I hate it when other folks write things like that on their blogs ;) So stay tuned!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Mostly, it's been block thrown in with little time. Work's a bit busy at the moment (what's new), with our upcoming annual meeting in Orlando in a fortnight and various other projects on the boil. And, of course, there's this wee 5.5-month-old at home that seems to take up an inordinate amount of time. Go figure. I have him for an hour in the morning, after getting up at 0530 (waaay pre-sparrow fart) to take the dog for a four-mile run, so FliesWithKiwiBird can catch up on some sleep; and then as soon as I get home from the office around 5pm, he's mine until we share bath, books and bed (I now know Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Goodnight Moon off by heart). During the weekends, I have him pretty much most of the time, to give FliesWithKiwiBird a much needed break. And frankly, the wee one doesn't care two hoots whether I have a daily blog commitment or not. But above all that, he's just so darn-gone-gorgeous!
So there you go. There are my excuses. At least the world keeps turning without me. Phew.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
But once more we can learn from the tragic mistakes made, and work to make bloody sure that this isn't you or me in the same position. As always, it comes down to wearing the right gear for the sport and the occasion, and not dicking around with the weather.
People depend on us coming home at the end of the day.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Earlier in the day, the Aussies had been trounced by England 10-12, the same England who had lost 36-0 to the Springboks earlier in the tournament. That was a real shocker. And then last night the favourites to win the Cup, the NZ All Blacks, lost to France 18-20. Couldn't believe it. We were all over at Pete and Lauren's watching the match - the wee one wearing his black NZ shirt for the first time. Pete's a Maori - how amazing is that - two Kiwis in Durham (there are more) and we live behind each other.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Of course, we never get too sad about having to replace gear, because that means some happy hours spent researching just the right replacement. Which I did. When the wee one is asleep in his sling across my shoulders, I’ve devised a system where I can rest the laptop on top of a good-sized carton, and then that atop the dining room table. Thus standing I’m just the right height to ‘research’ and not disturb the sleeping babe, who, of course, will know how to Google just as soon as he can sit up and move a mouse all by himself.
I needed a few more pockets this time, and bigger ones too. I particularly wanted a pocket that would fit my McMurdo 406 PLB EPRIB, not the smallest in its field, thus not having to carry it in a bumbag around my waist. I also wanted another separate pocket for my VHF. And then another pocket for a few other goodies, such as a whistle, stick or two of chapstick and three or four small flares. I’ll still carry the bumbag, but that’s for snacks and a bit of this and that – that system worked really well in this year’s Everglades Challenge. And if the new PFD could be yellow, to match my boat (I’m a girl) and to stand out in a potential rescue situation, even better.
A few happy hours later, Kokatat’s MsFIT Tour PFD it was. All the pockets I wanted and one more to boot, and I also like the fact that you can have it clipped across your chest with the two chest straps and the zip undone, and apparently you’re still USCG-deemed safe – for those hot steamy days. And it comes in yellow – mango for the fruits among us.
Being an REI purchase, and having saved every receipt ever spent on all my kayaking-related gear over the last two and a bit years (just to shock myself one cold rainy winter day when I add it all up), I trotted off to our local REI and turned in the old PFD for the new one awaiting me – I’d previously ordered it on line (using last month’s members’ special 20% discount offer) and taken advantage of the free shipping. And I learned that I didn’t even need the receipt as every one of my purchases is stored away on REI’s system. Rather scary. But what I loved is the no questions asked – you’ve used the kit for over two years, it falls to pieces, and presto, you’ve a new – maybe even better – one.
Oh, and actually using it to paddle in? A dream. Hardly even knew I had it on.
Sigh. The smell of new gear.
Friday, October 5, 2007
For the first time in months there were rain clouds on the horizon, but they slowly drifted off to the south (lucky South Carolina, if so), leaving us as dry as ever. Once more, the level of the lake's dropped, and even more counties have banned any watering or car washing whatsoever. In Durham County here, we're restricted to certain watering times on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We're also allowed to top up the pool, but I'm inclined to think that's rather a silly thing to be allowed to do when others are suffering, including Durhamites, so we're not.
The pink hues as the sun slowly died behind the clouds made for beautiful reflections as I made it back to Ebeneezer, 12 miles later.
It's good to get out on Wednesdays.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
I mentioned Freya Hoffmeister's journey a few posts back, and now the renowned Justine Curgenven (Wales) and to me unknown Barbro Lindman (Sweden) are also taking up the challenge.
My responses are entirely irrational:
- One was fine, now three are 'competing', and I'm not one of them
- Three sheilas and not one of them is a Kiwi, and I'm not one of them (but I'm a Kiwi)
- This trip is probably one of the most challenging any paddler could make, and I'm not one of them
- With the most beautiful scenery to view, and I'm not one of them