Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rising tides

If Greenland's ice mass were to melt, sea levels would rise by 7m. Even if sea levels rose by 1m, imagine the effect on our coastline and those around the world.

"We fixed the voting problems in Florida." "How?" "Florida's gone, mate."

These were some of the snippets I heard in conversation with a group of eminent scientists that Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society and my employer, had convened in collaboration with the UN Foundation to prepare a report on confronting the impacts of climate change, or climate heating as it probably should be known. We were in NYC yesterday to present the report, Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable, to the United Nations and its new secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.

An exciting couple of days, but ones with salutary messages. The science on climate heating is precise enough now to tell us that we have to stop carbon and other emissions. Now. And if we continue as business as usual, we are literally, and figuratively, cooked. Humankind is largely responsible for what is happening, and the harm is accelerating. The impacts won't just be dangerous to human well-being, but catastrophic.

What was different about our report is that for the first time we offered to the international community a road map for mitigation, adaptation and sustainability. But there's no one silver bullet - an entire set of solutions has to come into play.

There are also win-win solutions - the report makes that clear.

Life offers many options. In this respect we only get two: we either get it right; or we don't.

Everyone needs to wake up and do their bit. Both as individuals and as a collective. The time to act is today. We're not talking a hundred years plus from now - the effect of climate heating will be felt even more within the next decade or two.

And I for one would like Florida's Everglades to still be around for later Everglade Challenges!

Photos: Katie and Kristen get a peak within the UN; the UN from the 10th floor of NYU's medical school - it was a chilly day!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Last paddle

It was my last paddle out on Jordan Lake yesterday before the Everglades Challenge kicks off. The boat was fully loaded, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. Even had to take my jacket off.

Bumped into Dawn (SandyBottom) along the way, and exchanged photos. And bumped into Dee on the way back, so paddled home together.

Managed 26 miles in about 6.5 hours, but felt pretty knackered by the time I got home. I'm trying to talk myself into the fact that adrenalin, painkillers every four hours, eating every hour and drinking Gookinaid regularly, will keep me going for 16 hours paddling a day, for seven to eight days.

And we call this "fun"...

I'm off to NYC tomorrow for three days business. I work for Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, and we're presenting a report on climate change to the UN. Two years in the making, but hopefully it will all help the cause.

And Thursday, Dawn and I are driving down to Florida! Rumours abound that there's a WaterTribe party that night...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Looking official

Well, the name of the boat and Bubba Girl, my sponsor, is official: the stickers are on the boat. The Everglades Challenge is just eight sleeps away and I’ve a heap of last-minute things to get done, but at least the boat looks great!

Thanks to Dawn (AKA SandyBottom), I now have “KiwiBird” and a stylized Maori warrior as my “scare-the-heck-out-of-the-competition” logos. And throw in a couple of NZ flags along the gunnel, and what better promotion could one get for 100% Pure NZ.

Last night I finally got the Ram GPS mount on the boat – the screws accompanying the unit wouldn’t fit their nuts, so off I dashed at lunchtime yesterday to a local hardware store and bought the requisite ones – doubled the number to four, just to make sure. With the kayak in the lounge, much to my partner’s disquiet but bemusement, I can work on the boat in warmth.

I also got all my Gookinaid scooped out into Ziplocs, each baggie enough for four litres, and I’m reckoning on nearly two four-litre water bags a day. And now I know just where I’m going to position the Sticky Pod mount for my camera.

It’s all terribly exciting! In fact, I sometimes think the preparation can be more fun than the actual event you’re preparing for. I often found that with my boats on the marina hardstand during the winter and tinkering away on them.

But ultimately it’s all about the personal adventure, and being a Bubba Girl. If I can get just a couple of nieces to get excited and start dreaming that they too could be doing just something like this tomorrow; if another forty-something can say to her partner and children, let’s go camping this weekend; if grandma can call up her neighbour and make a date to go for a walk along the beach, then they too can be Bubba Girls.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

NZ's silver fern

I was thrilled to see a few weeks ago, to celebrate NZ’s Waitangi Day in the US, a 100m Silver Fern sand sculpture on Santa Monica beach in LA, built by several hundred Kiwis. The project helped launch the website promoting New Zealand enterprise.

The silver fern is probably recognized as NZ’s national emblem, perhaps even more so than the Kiwi.

Folks from outside NZ probably aren’t aware of a major campaign underway to change the NZ flag to something more representative of the country and not just our past ownership by the British Empire and our long-term membership of the Commonwealth. What more fitting image, it’s argued, could there be than the silver fern.
Images range from the stylized to the more representative.

Kiwis are generally sport-mad. The silver fern is also the national emblem for all our sportspeople who represent the country on the international sports scene. You’ll always see a wee silver fern on the upper left-hand side of the predominantly black shirt. In fact, pretty much all our national teams’ names relate to the silver fern and the predominant national colour of black.

We have the All Blacks - the world’s best rugby team, the Silver Ferns - the world’s best netball team, the Black Caps – our male not-so-great cricketeers (but we still love ‘em) and Black Ferns – our women cricketeers, the Black Sticks – our hockey team, the Tall Blacks – our slowly-getting-better men’s basketball team, and the Tall Ferns is our women’s team, the Black Sox – our oft-times world-champs softball team, the All Whites – our soccer team, and the Black Ferns – our world champs in women’s rugby. Believe it or not, our world champs in wheelchair rugby are the Wheel Blacks and the NZ badminton team was temporarily named the Black Cocks. Temporarily being the operative word here.

But what does it look like in the real world? Well, the fern is green on one side and, you guessed it, silver on the other. It’s a very evocative plant.

It even made a stamp.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Helping hand for Andrew McAuley

It was comforting to see that Andrew McAuley’s website has been updated. I and I don’t doubt many others would have liked the opportunity to attend his memorial service.

It was fascinating to see the photo of the bird pushing Andrew along on his quest. We’ve been trying to figure out what bird it is – I thought perhaps a booby or albatross. My brother, Rob, is a tourism resource consultant back in NZ and lives with his family in Nelson at the top of the South Island. I asked him what he thought it was: “Could be either a royal albatross or a southern giant petrel. Can't see its beak properly, but my bet would be the royal albatross."

He also sent me a photo he took last year of a wandering albatross near White Island. A bit blurry (they were catching some big fish), but it has a beak. White Island’s one of NZ’s two active volcanoes, off the east coast of the North Island – I’ve had some great diving trips there, but that’s another story.

The only mainland breeding colony for any albatross species found in the southern hemisphere is found at NZ’s Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head, on the tip of the Otago Peninsula on the east coast of the South Island. It’s just a bit lower than the same line that Andrew was paddling across the Tasman.

Part of Andrew’s enjoyment of the trip, and all his trips, must have been the wildlife he encountered along the way, but probably closer to both the Tasmanian and New Zealand coasts on this crossing. And albatrosses can cover huge distances, so his shot above could have been taken anywhere.

Can you imagine Andrew's delight when this albatross came to nudge him along?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Where am I?

It’s been a challenging evening, and early morning. Even forwent a run to dash back to the laptop to see if I could nut it out. Oscar, our dog, is not happy. Two weeks (less) before the Everglades Challenge kicks off and I’m still trying to work out how to download all the maps, routes and waypoints I’ve been hours and hours mapping out on my Garmin BlueCharts software.

At least I feel I know the route pretty well, having also transferred everything to my paper (waterproof) charts.

Here’s where the community of the EC WaterTribe really comes to the fore. Last night I posted a “help” on the EC’s discussion forum, and before I knew it, advice appeared courtesy of cyber space, from Crazy Russian and SandyBottom (their EC tribal names).
So far so good: I’ve managed to transfer the waypoints and routes – I just can’t get the maps to transfer. The ‘system’ is telling me (wonderful personification relationships we have with our ‘systems’) that the maps I want to download haven’t been ‘unlocked’, and I thought I had done that when I first downloaded the software.

This is the wonderful thing about Garmin’s BlueCharts – for Garmin, that is. You pay (a lot) per small area of map – the world is not at your fingertips – just portions of it – and each wee area has an ‘unlock code’ specific to your personal GPS. Kayakers probably aren’t really Garmin’s prime target market, I will admit that. Those much bigger commercial vessels that set up the much larger wakes are the ones who snap this software up. But I did get the best deal via, of all places.

So if anyone out there has any additional advice, I’m all ears!

2115 update: Just spent nearly an hour with the excellent Bernard in Kansas from Garmin's support team. Seems the GPS unit's internal reg number didn't match the one on the box. I am dangerously set to go!

Monday, February 19, 2007

What pong?

“You don’t shower for more than a week?!” That’s one of the shrieks I often hear when I talk about the Everglades Challenge to landlubber folks. When I was climbing, it was even louder; “You don’t shower for a month”?!

It’s never bothered me, not having to shower. When we lived on the boat for the two years as pre-schoolers, and every subsequent Christmas holiday for over 20 years for a month, every now and then we’d find a secluded waterfall on a secluded beach and wash bodies and clothes.

Baby wipes are the key. I budget for two a day (my partner’s eyes roll – “just two?”). One in the morning as a pick-me-up, and another in the evening to wash all the grime off and to try and keep my sleeping bag just that wee bit fresher. And when I’m paddling, I use
Gurney Goo to stop any bum rash – the Tea-Tree antiseptic additive also smells great.

My longest times without showering were always that month’s climbing expedition I managed to find time for during the nineties (and was single). Climbing at altitude, I always believed we smelled cleaner because there was less grime in the air. We never complained of our fellow climbers because we could never smell them.

But my theory was shot at the end of a month’s climbing in Peru, attempting Huascaran (6,768m/22,204ft). We’d
already taken nearly a couple of weeks trekking part of the Cordillera Blanca on our way to climb Pisco Oeste (5,752m/18,871ft), which was a great climb and excellent acclimatization for Huascaran, our main objective.

We spent nearly ten days on Huascaran, finally thwarted within half-a-day of the summit at 6,550m (21,490ft) as the snow bridge had collapsed on the only route up, just a couple of days before our push for the summit. Unfortunately, three fellow climbers had fallen down the crevasse to their death. It was a sombre moment when we’d heard the news and seen the choppers making the airlift.

But we made it back to Huaraz for a couple of days R&R before the long return drive to Lima and flight back to NYC, where I was living at the time. In my wee cabin in Huaraz, I had thrown off the kit I’d been wearing for that month in a corner and jumped in the shower. I was a wee while, and coming out could smell something very dead in my room. I hunted everywhere around this old wooden cabin looking for the carrion, to finally discover that the smell indeed emanated from that pile of clothes in the corner.

* There are some good shots of Pisco and Huascaran at
Jagged Globe’s website. The top shot above was taken a couple of hundred metres from Huascaran's summit, above the Gargantua Col. Middle shot: Wash day! Bottom shot: Half way up the Gargantua Icefall, Huascaran's crux - fun slopes at 85degrees. That's me in the orange.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


One of my life mantras is “no regrets”. And if I’ve made an error in my past that still haunts, then to make peace with myself. But I have one memory that still niggles. And it still has the power to embarrass me because I didn’t have the courage at the time to make a simple tactical decision.

When I left New Zealand in 1989, I waved goodbye to family and friends from Westhaven Marina from a 50-foot double-masted racing yacht, Saudade. I was off on my “big OE” (the Kiwi’s ubiquitous Overseas Experience) as one of six women crewing on the inaugural Auckland-Fukuoka 14,000 km yacht race. The race was to take us two months with stopovers in Suva and Guam. We certainly had a few adventures along the way – one particular occasion I was a wee bit tardy in getting a wrap around a mast-step winch when hand-raising the spinnaker. An unexpected gust of wind caught the sail and before I knew it I was 50 feet up the mast – then swung out, my back brushing against the inside curl of the sail, the Pacific Ocean roaring along way beneath me. No way was I letting go! But before long, the wind died, and I was slowly lowered right back from where I’d started. And I got that wrap around the winch pretty jolly smartly.

Five days before we were to cross the finish line, I was watch captain early one morning with Margaret, a Canadian who’d worked with the same firm as me in Auckland – she’d joined us in Guam when we’d found ourselves a crew member short. Needless to say, everyone else was fast asleep down below. Sadly, during the voyage, tensions had crept up a bit, especially with the finish line so close after so long. And there had been times when we’d made tactical decisions that had been criticised by our cabin-bound male skipper who had really only surfaced when we’d reached a stopover.

0300 and the wind’s veering. We really need to put a tack in. But the last time we did, we got growled at. So we didn’t. 0415 and the wind’s gone further around. Now we really need to put a tack in. But we didn’t. Dawn breaks and the next watch stumbles up into the cockpit. Where the heck are we? Way off course. We put a tack in. It takes us a full day to make up the lost ground. Nobody really speaks to me for the rest of the race. And because of my indecision, and lack of courage at that crucial time, we miss the race end’s prize-giving.

May I never lack that courage to make a tactical decision again.

* Top photo: China is somewhere over there. About half-way between Guam and Fukuoka we were totally becalmed for four days and nights, and drifted backwards 25nm.
* Lower photo: Normal watch captain attire, at least for the camera.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I’m off in an hour or two for two days solid paddling and my last overnighter before the Everglades Challenge drags off the beach at 0700 on March 3. And it’s going to be a chilly one with night time temperatures dropping down to -7C (19F). Dawn (AKA SandyBottom) will be out with me. With her roomier Kruger Dreamcatcher she’s promised to bring the firewood, and I pledged the hipflask of Courvoisier. Fair deal.

One of the
specifications for the EC is a synthetic sleeping bag, something I’ve no real experience in as I’ve always used my NZ Macpac Neve or Solstice down bags, even when kayaking. So a few boxes have UPS-come and gone from the house as I’ve tried to figure out which one to finally use. EC regulations specify a synthetic bag suitable for a range from 32°F (0C) Gale Force Wind/Rain to 90ºF+ (32C) and bright sun or rain.

With all my research, I decided I needed Primaloft Sport fill for the bag. I started off with the Marmot Pounder – took it out of the box, and it had no loft whatsoever. So back it went. And then a fellow Watertriber recommended Wiggy’s Lamilite. Never heard of it, but reading Wiggy’s website and talking with Wiggy himself on the phone certainly enlightened me. Unfortunately for Wiggy, I’ve only got hatches with a 17.78cm (7”) diameter, and even with the bag’s stuffsack, his beautiful blue UltraLight just wouldn’t fit. So back it went. Off I went to REI, and I’m now the proud (and hopefully warm) owner of an REI Nooksack 30F (1C) – they even gave me a 15% discount because of the EC. (But why, REI, do you only make right-hand zips on women’s bags?!)

If I do get a bit chilly, I’m also taking with me one of my favourite pieces of kit, my Macpac Snowflake, a toasty zipless inner down bag which stuffs down to near nothing, and I’ll pop that inside the Nooksack. And inside that is my Macpac taffeta liner, again adding a few extra degrees and also keeping my outer bags clean from all my gruesome EC sweat and grime.

As the Verizon chap didn’t say, “Can you smell me now?”

Friday, February 16, 2007

15 more sleeps...

… before the Everglades Challenge kicks off at 0700 on March 3. Am I excited? You bet! Am I a wee bit nervous? You bet! Is my partner having kittens? I’ll say!

Even though 300 miles (480km) from Tampa Bay to Key Largo is a bit of a hike, it’s certainly not as far or as open as the 1600km to paddle from Tasmania to NZ. And I will have to admit that the recent tragic loss of Andrew McAuley (which I cried over) stopped me in my tracks for a good few minutes (and has still left me very sad).

I've sailed from Auckland to Fukuoka – 14,000 km, I’ve climbed mountains in the Alps, Peru and Kazakhstan for a month at a time, I lived on a 32-foot yacht for two years as a pre-schooler, and I regularly ride my bike to work. The most nervous I’ve felt is riding my bike. Life’s one big adventure and I’d feel pretty miserable without at least one small one perhaps each week (and a glass or two of (NZ) wine and some good dark chocolate).

So I’m busy packing and repacking the boat, drilling holes (ouch) here and there to reposition the sail (the foredeck started concaving), testing Clif Bars to find my favourites, adding another bit of bungee here and there to lash something down in a hurry, figuring where’s the easiest place on my body to stow and access my
EPIRB and how the heck do I use the TravelMate to pee while sitting down; and it’s taking me forever to finally decide where to drill another couple of holes to add the Ram mount I ordered to fix my GPS to the foredeck in front of me. At least I can move the Sticky Pod mount for my camera around to wherever I like.

Thus, if these are the least of my worries, I think I’m pretty much good to go.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Everglades Challenge sponsor

After my first attempt at social commentary yesterday (my brother, Rob, always has a reasonable way of dissecting reports using statistics concerning NZ), I've decided to stick to something I do know a bit about, kayaking.

I'm thrilled to 'announce' that Bubba Girl is one of my main sponsors for the upcoming 2007 Everglades Challenge. Bubba Girl is an acronym for 'Be Unique By Being Adventurous. Get Into Real Life.'

The site is devoted to encouraging women and girls of all ages to get out and be adventurous via mentors and real-life experiences by ordinary women.

Along with this blog, you can follow in a bit more detail my EC preparation via the Bubba Girl website, where a journal is being posted in the lead-up to the EC, as well as during.

I'm proud to be a Bubba Girl! (Just don't call me Bubba...)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Who's minding the children?

UNICEF has just released its report on child poverty, titled, "An overview of child well-being in rich countries: A comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations."

It makes pretty sobering reading. The report argues that “The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.”

So where do the countries that I’m familiar with (having lived there) rank. The Netherlands heads the table of overall child well-being, ranking in the top 10 for all six dimensions of child well-being covered by the report. Got to be all the milk they drink. The UK and the US are in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed.

What’s very scary is that NZ has always been deemed the best place to bring up your kids, at least that's what we Kiwis boast. Heavens above - as noted in the report, New Zealand children die from accidents and injuries at a higher rate than in any of 24 other developed countries. Mind you, the US is right there beside it. I don’t know what the cause may be here in the US, but I’d hazard a guess that in NZ too many young lads drink and drive their cars too fast, and with my fairly regular reading of the NZ Herald, there are appalling rates of family violence and child deaths by maltreatment.

At least for educational development (reading, maths and science in 15 year-olds), NZ and the Netherlands rank up the near the top, while the US lags far behind.

This is just brushing the surface of an extremely comprehensive report with a myriad of dimensions and respective percentages. But surely, countries such as the US and the UK, and even wee ol’ NZ, albeit relatively ‘poorer’ when comparing GDP, could and should be doing better with the resources these wealthy countries have.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First steps

I've often fantasized about creating my own blog, having enjoyed reading those of friends I do know and friends I don't know, but feel I do at some level by sharing their experiences revolving around like interests.

I feel a wee bit humble taking this very public step, but as the world opens, and even flattens, perhaps the power of the blog may be the power of a wider universal community whereby universal thought and respect may just make a difference. But that could be my Kiwi naivety showing.

So, as we'd say downunder, and even-tempered by my perpetual peripatetic lifestyle, let's "give it a go"!

A definite kayaking theme will be first on the menu - I've had to hang up the ol' crampons and the ice axe sleeps under the bed as a nocturnal weapon against vagrant possums. Definitely a gear nut, whether it be kayak, camping, tramping (hiking for the Yanks) or biking, so there'll be some chat on some of my favourite stuff. Folks above the northern hemisphere may even learn a few ways to spell real English. You'll also see a fair bit of metric as I try and keep my hand in with a far better system that I was raised with; and I also want my family back in NZ to be able to understand me ;)

Another far greater adventure and journey to explore is that my partner and I are having a baby (this is week 28), so that topic will more than likely take center stage at some point too!

First up to chat about over the next few weeks is the 2007 Everglades Challenge, a 300-mile/483km kayak race I'm entered in that kicks off March 3, so there's not much time left!