Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Scarpering off work early, I met Jane at Ebeneezer put in on Jordan Lake. We're incredibly lucky in North Carolina to have some marvelously huge man-made lakes without any foreshore development that twist and whirl to open up vistas that make a heart swell - just don't look east to the nuclear plant puffing away.
A good head wind for the first half of the trip as we steamed through the 'narrows' of New Hope Overlook, which is open for camping but only attainable by foot or by water, on our way to the dam. And nearly flew home on the following wind.
There were blue herons, American eagles high aloft (the lake is one of the largest summertime homes of the bald eagle), fish ajumping, fair winds and warm sun - what more could a paddler wish for?
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Alas, it was not meant to be, losing by a rather dismal 81 runs. And the photo above is of captain Stephen Fleming being dismissed after only one run. (He later resigned as captain of the one-day test team.)
Now, this may mean nothing at all to those Yanks who pop in every now and then and peruse this blog. Cricket? Isn't that a chirping insect?
I won't go into the intricacies of this wonderful game, but explain why losing, in this instance, can be a great win.
As many of you may/should know, there's a pretty grim factional spat going on in Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan Government on one side and the Tamil Tigers on the other. But here's where cricket kept the peace, if for even a few hours. The Government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels held a truce yesterday so they could watch their national cricket side beat the Black Caps and thus advance to the World Cup final.
The Tigers held true to their word of not attacking while the cricket was on as they "would be watching the match".
However, it was short-lived as just five hours after the match two policemen were killed in a roadside bomb attack.
So I'm glad (a wee bit) we lost.
Sri Lanka's playing Australia in the final on Sunday (our U.S. Monday). Just imagine if Sri Lanka wins. Could this perhaps mean a longer-lasting truce?
It could be... cricket!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Anzac Day, on 25 April (which is today in NZ), is commemorated as the anniversary of the 1915 landing of New Zealand and Australian troops during the First World War at Gallipoli, on the western coast of Turkey. Many will remember the campaign as a shocking mess, with elderly British army leaders sending the young Aussie and Kiwi soldiers off to their deaths.
Anzac Day commemorates New Zealanders killed in war and to honour returned servicemen and women. The day has similar importance in Australia, New Zealand's partner in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli and, in many respects, the campaign played an important part in fostering a sense of national identity for both NZ and Australia.
By the time the eight-month long Gallipoli campaign ended, over 120,000 men had died: more than 80,000 Turkish soldiers, 44,000 British and French soldiers, and over 8500 Australians. Among the dead were 2721 young New Zealanders, about a quarter of those who had landed on the peninsula.
Mel Gibson’s 1981 film, Gallipoli, which I sob through the ending, is a poignant salute to those who fell. The Turks remember as well. When I visited Turkey in 1990, showing my NZ passport, they refused to accept the visa entry fee.
Shortly after my dad’s mum emigrated from Edinburgh in the early 1900s – I remember her as a dour Scots woman – she lived in Middlemarch in the South Island, and was nanny to a well-to-do local family. It was rumoured that the father of the family committed suicide by jumping from his bell tower. He had been one of the generals at Gallipoli.
Anzac Day’s something special in NZ. It’s a day of remembering, and the poignant saying for the day has long been “lest we forget”. Many folks buy the red poppy sold by the Returned Services Association (RSA) to pin to their lapels, representing Gallipoli’s red poppies. Dawn memorial services are held throughout the country, and a growing number of young Kiwis and Aussies join these services, as well as making the yearly pilgrimage to Gallipoli itself.
The Anzac Day ceremony is rich in tradition and ritual. It is, essentially, a military funeral, with all the solemnity and symbolism such an event entails: uniformed service personnel standing motionless around a memorial, with heads bowed and weapons reversed; a bier of wreaths laid by the mourners; the chaplain reading the words from the military burial service; the firing of three volleys; and the playing of the Last Post, followed by a prayer, hymn, and benediction.
NZ’s last WWI soldier died a few years ago - my late grandfather, my mum's dad, lost two brothers in WWI, one from the effects of mustard gas - and those veterans from WWII are slowly passing away too. My dad, at 86, is still hanging in there though. He served in the Pacific, at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, and Green Island.
Lest we forget.
Friday, April 20, 2007
When the Coastguard boarded the boat, via a chopper drop and a good swim, the engine was found idling, table laid for dinner, a laptop and other computers open running, but no people. The headsail's shredded and the main sheet looks as though it's parted company with its traveler, but it doesn't take much to do that on an untended boat. Interestingly, there's also a reef in the main, and that could be a whisper pole hanging from the mast on the port side - perhaps they'd poled the headsail out on a down wind reach.
Media is reporting that the liferaft is missing, but there’s yet been no confirmation whether the cat did have a liferaft or not. I can't see an empty cradle anywhere on the foredeck where a liferaft would normally be secured. There is a RIB hanging from the stern on davits, still with its outboard.
This tale is a poignant reminder when at sea in a kayak or a yacht – don’t leave your boat, unless it’s sinking from under you. In most cases, the boat will survive. And always wear a lifeline.
When I was skippering a bareboat off the Turkish coast in 1990, we were told of a charter yacht that had similarly been found adrift. The Med had been flat calm and nor were there any signs of a struggle. What rescuers did find though, were lots of finger nail scratch marks along the side of the hull, just above the waterline. Apparently the crew had all jumped overboard for a swim, but had forgotten to hang a boarding ladder.
I thought that perhaps this is what had happened in this case, but watching the video, you can see that the Coastguard swimmer has little trouble climbing up one of the hull’s low transoms. But what I do find curious is that there’s one fender hanging over the starboard side of the cat, and another three hanging over the port side. Dad never let us leave our fenders over the side of the boat for more than a minute once we’d left the jetty!
Prior to this year’s Everglades Challenge, EC superstar SandyBottom had advised me to have a line of some sort attaching me to my kayak. And I took her at her word. In fact, Andrew McAuley’s loss compounded that decision. I had an old climbing tape, less than a metre long, looped around the side of my PFD, with a carabiner to clip the other end to the kayak’s safety lines. I felt just that little bit safer, knowing that if anything really bad did happen, I wouldn’t be separated from my boat, or at least I’d be found with my boat.
* Six hours later: The more I think about this case - and it's been plaguing me all day - the more I believe that this is probably a very sad case where one of the crew has fallen overboard, another tried to help him (two were brothers), and the other fell over trying to save all of them. I've seen it before where a person's fallen overboard, and another has automatically jumped straight over the side without a thought in the world in an attempt to save them. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this could have happened shortly after first leaving port when winds were gusting 30knots, particularly because the reef is still in the main. It appears that conditions have been perfect for sailing once that 30knots blew over.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Late fifties: my dad has finished building a 32-foot Kathryn Anne Woolacott designed yacht, Aries. It has taken him nearly five years, in a shed up the side of the house.
1960: mum and dad marry.
1961: I come along.
1962: my sister Clio arrives.
1963: dad closes down his cabinet-making business at the back of the house, mum’s parents move down from Auckland and live in the house, and for the next few years we sail the east coast of the North Island.
1965: my brother Rob is born. The family joke is that we just row mum ashore in time. Dad attaches a wringer to Aries’ transom so we can wash and wring nappies/diapers, to dry on the boat’s rigging.
1966: I’m about to turn five and thus due to start school. With some sadness the family sails home. I start primary school, dad reopens his business, mum’s parents move into a flat next door, mum raises a family before she goes back to part-time and then full-time secondary school teaching.
I’m a great believer that kids are extremely resilient, that you can take them anywhere from a very early age and pretty much throw them in any deep end. It takes parents who know what they’re doing, that’s certain, but as parents, we’ve also got to take the responsibility of introducing our kids to all the wonders and adventures outside the home and mall. And hopefully that sense of adventure will grow as they do.
I’ll never forget mum’s reaction in 1989 when I told her that I’d entered a two-month yacht race from Auckland to Fukuoka: “Why can’t my kids be boring like everyone else’s!”
If you’re interested in another look at kids at sea, my brother Rob wrote an article on the very subject a few years back.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Auckland – City of Sails! Gotta have a boat in Auckland! I dragged all my pennies together, borrowed some from my parents at a fair interest rate and hit the For Sale ads in The New Zealand Herald. I bought a Raven, a 27-foot NZ class design by Owen Woolley. And I went for a fiberglass hull rather than wood. Ouch, but with my work schedule, easy-care glass was necessary to get the most out of my sailing.
Houdini was everything I wanted – flush deck, four berths, full headroom and then some, 15hp diesel, wee galley, large cockpit, and all the sails. She even boasted a spinnaker. I transferred her from a swing mooring I’d had laid in Orakei Bay to a rented marina berth up at Gulf Harbour in Whangaparaoa – nearly an hour’s drive in those days, but much closer to the cruising grounds of the Hauraki Gulf (America’s Cup sailing territory!) and with an excellent hardstand and traveller for easy hauling out.
I didn’t need to do too much to the boat when I bought it – it was a bit run down but sailable. I put in new carpet, made some bookcases and a new cabinet to fit a VHF unit and a stereo, a new chilly bin and an anchor locker. And I learned how to bleed a diesel.
One morning I came down to the marina to find that friends had added some stickers to the transom. My boat was now called Mrs. Houdini. Apparently that’s what all the marina staff had been calling me.
If not solo, I’d often take friends out for long weekend cruises – I’d dive for scallops, paua or crays, and with a few bottles of NZ vino in the chilly bin, we’d be set. They were great days.
Two years later (1989), I left the country, via Westhaven Marina, on a two month yacht race from Auckland to Japan. Good friends sold Mrs. Houdini for me, good enough to realize before me that I wouldn’t be coming back to NZ for probably some time...
Saturday, April 14, 2007
But it’s no mere island. Mercury holds an almost mystical awe for our family. It’s where our parents first met, in Mercury Cove, the island’s main but small harbour. It’s where our parents got engaged. It’s where we spent five to six weeks every year over the Chistmas (summer) holidays sailing, swimming, diving, rambling, and basically having the best time a kid could imagine. The island has sandy southern beaches with clear crystal water, towering white cliffs, hidden wee coves where you know there’s a hidden cray or paua, rocky beaches perfect for fossicking, clear water streams, and the fishing used to be entirely dependable.
I still can’t believe my luck that every now and then over the last few years, I’ve been able to take my partner there, out with dad, on his yacht. And five years ago, it’s where dad and I spread mum’s ashes.
It used to be a bit of a slog up the east coast to get to Mercury when we lived in Tauranga. But our parents decided to make the Coromandel, and Mercury, their cruising grounds when they retired to Whitianga in the mid-eighties. For 15 years they sailed a 45-foot Woolacott around the Mercs.
It’s not often that lives revolve around one place, or connect around just one place. But Mercury seems to be that place. My brother sometimes takes his wife and two children out there, borrowing dad’s yacht for a week or two. And we wonder if his children will develop such a connection.
Chart sourced from Land Information New Zealand data. Crown Copyright Reserved. NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Many sports still have the ‘oldies’ strutting their stuff, but sports associated with “messing about in boats” may well have a higher share. And I think this is one of my key loves about sea kayaking – it doesn’t matter how old I get, and how well I’ve thrashed my body over the years with the climbing, backpacking and ski mountaineering, I should still be able to keep paddling.
What first brought this to mind was a story in today’s NZ Herald that two Japanese yachties have been plucked to safety by a NZ ship near Guam, in what appears to be pretty rough conditions. The younger crew member of the stricken 11m yacht was 67. His mate was 72. Both were partially deaf. One suffers from high blood pressure and has reduced mobility due to the steel plates he has inserted in his back.
My dad (right) is 86 next week and is still sailing his 32ft Davidson around the NZ coastline for weeks on end.
One particular crew comes to mind in this year’s EC - Tyro and PaddleCarver (photo above) – whose combined ages add up around 146.
And Audrey Sutherland, at 85 the Grandma Moses of paddling, is still doing her thing.
I’m not criticising the fact that the two Japanese, on their way across the Pacific to NZ, had to be rescued, but celebrating their attitude to life.
As my grandfather so rightly said: “You’re a long time dead.”
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Even though we appreciated the scrumptious Easter eggs the Easter Bunny left us as wee kids, who even signed the letters we wrote her with coloured paw pads, we were still Kiwis through and through with a general distaste for the hoppity pests.
So we good ol’ Kiwis sure know how to host the Great Alexandra Easter Bunny Hunt. (DISCLAIMER: Stop reading now if you’re of a sensitive mind.)
Alexandra’s a community in Otago, way down in the
This year, 400 hunters shot more than 16,000 bunnies, a bit down on last year’s 22,000.
Just like the British colonial settlers brought gorse to NZ, thinking it a terrifically useful substitute for fencing and now another national pest, rabbits were introduced for hunting sport and to remind the Poms of home. Now, rabbits are among farmers' worst enemies in drought-prone Otago, where grass is scarce.
And I can’t help passing on the faintly quixotic e-mail address for the organizer: firstname.lastname@example.org – true spirit!
Monday, April 9, 2007
Narrator: “Suddenly, there was a cry from the lookout.”
Lookout: “Look out!”
Capt'n: "What is it?
Lookout: "An iceberg."
Sound effects: major crunching of ice on wooden hull.
Lookout: “Don't worry. It's gone now.”
An acccident on NZ’s Waitemata Harbour last year left a salutary lesson to kayakers, and boaters. An 8m powerboat, travelling at 16 knots was about 60m away from Stuart Chrisp's yellow kayak when he waved his bright yellow paddle and shouted a warning.
Obviously, shouting at a boat with twin props and doing 16 knots means you’re not going to be heard. And blowing the obligatory whistle attached to your PFD is a waste of time in most circumstances. There’s really not a lot a kayaker can do when caught in such a predicament. Thus the onus is on the bigger and faster boats to do the right thing – keep a lookout and adjust their speed.
Skipper of the powerboat was a rear commodore of the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), who should have known better. Last week he pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to failing to keep a proper lookout, and failing to consider the obligations of the vessel he was in charge of. Interestingly, he’s believed to be the first person in NZ to be prosecuted for colliding with a kayaker. I don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere in the world.
On the skipper’s side, as soon as he heard the "thump" of the kayak under the boat, he fished Chrisp out of the water. But that, quite rightly, wasn’t good enough for the Court.
Overall, it’s a good warning for boaties with fast and powerful boats; collision regulations clearly state that you must keep a proper and effective lookout and adjust your speed accordingly. Please. But it also means that we kayakers have got to be always keeping a wary eye out in areas with heavier boat traffic.
And Chrisp? Apart from the fact that he seriously thought he wasn’t going to see his wife and three kids ever again, he was whisked off to hospital with severe bruising and a locked back and, as any good Kiwi would, said he was in “bloody agony”.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
One of my responsibilities was to manage TOYchallenge, the coolest program for middle school girls and boys to design and build their very own toy or game. It was the best way we could introduce kids to the wonders of engineering and the design process. This is TOYchallenge’s fifth year, and when I took it over in its second year, I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting four very smart kids, Alyssa, Amy, Kaycee and Nicholas, who called themselves the Waveriders. Their prototype toy was “Boogie2Boogie”, and Janice, mum to Alyssa and Amy, was the team’s unstoppable coach.
The team figured that body boards, commonly known as Boogie Boards, were not well designed for kids, if at all. Older riders ride on the face of waves, farther out from the shore. Kids enjoy body boarding the breakers, the "white water," near the shore. So the team designed a board specifically for riding those breakers. Shaped almost like a boomerang, kids fit easily ‘into’ the board, adding to their safety. What’s also fun is that two boards can be strapped together via Velcro pads, so that friends can boogie together. And what’s really cool, especially for parents who often yell themselves hoarse trying to get their kids’ attention, is that each board has a red signal light on it. Parents just push the signal box they hold in their hands, and the red light flashes on the board.
Needless to say, the team co-won the 2004 National competition for best toy. Their prize was probably one of the best any child, or adult, could receive. Hasbro, founding sponsor of TOYchallenge, made each of them look-a-like dolls, right down to Amy’s glasses and freckles.
Since Boogie2Boogie’s debut in 2003, the team and its toy has gone on to international acclaim. They’ve been written about in books, on websites and on TV, including the BBC and CNN interviews with Miles O’Brien and Sally Ride. By Kids For Kids is even marketing Boogie2Boogie, hopefully soon to be hitting a shelf near you. And what is just amazing, is that the actual prototype boogie2boogies are currently on display at the California Museum for history, women & the arts.
A few months ago Alyssa and Kaycee were interviewed by Disney Movies, to highlight kids who are inventors. That snippet is just out now on the Internet, and I’d be very proud if you’d all take the time to quickly view the short segment. Click to access Disney's Movie Surfers website. Then click the right-hand ‘Spotlight Adventure’, “Meet the Robinsons”.
Aren’t kids cool?
Photo 1: The team displays their prototype for the very first time in 2003 at TOYchallenge 2004’s regionals, held at ASU, with Sally Ride. Photo 2: The Waveriders and their Hasbro look-a-like figures.
Friday, April 6, 2007
“I’m not a big thinker. I just paddle.” — Dana Chladek
Like many of you out there, our kayaking or whitewater wardrobes wouldn’t be complete without a few items of Fuzzy Rubber from Dana Chladek’s company, Rapidstyle. I for one love the stuff. And who can beat ‘sticky buns’ as a product name.
Dana’s a hugely talented woman. She emigrated from the former
But Rapidstyle seems to have vanished off the face of the Internet. I first got a bit worried about nine months ago, when Dana hadn’t updated her site from taking pre-Christmas orders, for 2005. I checked it regularly – nothing had changed on the home page - but now the site’s gone altogether.
So, I went into hunting mode just that bit more, and spoke with Marty at The Jersey Paddler. He confirmed that Dana closed Rapidstyle down about a year ago, and is now concentrating on her children. Can’t fault that! Marty says they’ve got a wee bit of fuzzy rubber left in stock, but that’ll be it after that’s sold.
Thanks, Dana, for all you’ve done with Rapidstyle, and hopefully we’ll see you, and the kids, back on the water soon – and perhaps back in business too!
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
And this Kiwi is wrapped!
Those with long memories may remember NZ’s heartache when we lost the cup in 2003 to the Swiss boat, Alinghi, skippered by Kiwi Russell Coutts, who had been the winning skipper on the Kiwi boats that successfully defended the cup in 2000, and had wrested the Cup from America in 1995, in
Folks back home were pretty upset that Coutts had bailed out on his own country – Dave Dobbyn’s hit song, Loyal, was almost the NZ national anthem – but the Black Magic crew was not prepared, and multiple gear failures played out to the ultimate failure, losing all the final races to the Swiss. How could anyone forget Black Magic’s cockpit filling up with water and being bailed out with a bucket! We wept.
So the eyes of
But if going by the great new artwork on Team NZ’s new black boats' keels – the ubiquitous Buzzy Bee and the NZ flag – we are good to go!
* Both photos by Chris Cameron.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
One of the best trips Jane and I had together, with our fellow paddler, Dee, was a five-day NC trip from