Thursday, September 27, 2007

BubbaGirl rules

First, a big thank you for all the birthday wishes - much appreciated - great fun with calls afar from NZ to Shanghai. Great to finally turn 39. Once again. Again. Times a few more...

So it's a good day to announce that BubbaGirl has again agreed to sponsor me for WaterTribe's Everglades Challenge for 2008. Woohoo!

BubbaGirl's an acronym for "Be Unique By Being Adventurous: Get Into Real Life", and a BubbaGirl is someone who seizes opportunities to grow and experience life. She's always looking for chances to learn about herself while fulfilling her dreams and potential. I'm always hoping that when I grow up, I'll be a BubbaGirl, and hopefully encourage other women of all ages to be BubbaGirls too.

A bit more about the sponsorship in some later posts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Callinectes sapidus

If when we die we're dead,
then the world is ours like gaudy grain
to be reaped while we're here, without guilt.
If not, then an ominous duty to feel
with the mite and the dragon is ours,
and a burden in being.

Late at night the ghosts of the crabs patrol our intestines,
scampering sideways, hearkening à pointe
like radar dishes beneath the tide, seeking
the safe grave of sand in vain, turning,
against their burning wills, into us.
from Crab Crack, by John Updike

When we were in Beaufort for our summer hols, Tim invited us around to a crab crack, of blue crab. My very first. I'm not a great fan of crab, and refuse to eat the imitation stuff, which isn't really crab at all but mostly pollack fish. And it wasn't easy getting stuck in with the wee one fast asleep on me in his sling. But I was slipped a morsel every now and then, and had to admit it was good stuff.

What really astounded me was the blue crab's colouring. When we first arrived at Tim's, the crabs were fresh from the steamer, and orange. Then when he loaded a second lot in, I saw them for the first time in all their glory. What a lovely creature. Tim taught me the difference between a male (Jimmy) and female (Sally) blue crab and, which are better for eating (Sally, of course, or possibly even Sook).

North Carolina is the number one producer of blue crab in the US, and apparently it's the most economically valuable fishery to the state. But in less than five years, over half of the state's processors have been forced to shut down and a coastal way of life is threatened.

And then there's the other side of the argument; and I quote from Sylvia Earle ("Her Deepness"), who I've met a few times and respect immensely: "I personally have stopped eating seafood. I know too much. I know that every fish counts at this point. Some more than others... If we value the ocean and the ocean's health at all, we have to understand that fish are critical to maintaining the integrity of ocean systems, which in turn make the planet work. We have been so single-minded about fish, thinking that the only good fish is a cooked fish, rather than recognizing their importance to the ecosystem that also has a great value to us."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

C'est la vie

Well, that's the last time I post an anticipated trip, 'cos it just doesn't seem to happen. A myriad of little things popped up, from work to weather to weariness. And it never hurts to bring the house and section up to scratch for FliesWithKiwiBird and the wee one's return this evening. That's probably more of a work out than paddling.

I got out Sunday on the lake, and it was beautiful. Hot though, with temperatures hovering over 34 celsius (90F). With the water even lower than before, and Durham finally on mandatory water restrictions (I hear via the media that we have 46 days of water left, thus I wonder why we weren't mandatory like every other county some time ago...), I'm finding the remnants of lost forests in this man-made lake never exposed before.

Some of the stump's shapes are glorious. As a child, everything in the botanic world slightly weird and potentially terrifying was a "triffid", from John Wyndham's 1951 novel, The Day of the Triffids. And here were lots of them, to bring a rush of childhood reading memories.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Once more...

Having another go at the coastal trip this weekend. Heading down to Cedar Island for tonight, camping near the ferry terminal, and then heading off for three days. With the forecast as it is, I thought to reverse the trip originally planned, heading down the Sound to Drum Inlet, punching out and up the coast, surfing through Okracoke Inlet and then back down to Cedar Island. With the wind rotation of E-SE-W-SW-N forecasted over the three days, I should get some decent winds astern or abeam (bearing in mind that the map above is tilted NW).

Catch you all on my return...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paddle magic

It's been a blissful couple of days paddling after work this week. The heavy rain (finally) we had on Friday has cleared the air, and with Autumn slowly creeping in, vistas seem fresher. It really is a lovely time of the year.

It's still a comfortable C25 degrees (75F or so), so we're not yet encumbered with heavy clothing. And the lake temperature is slowly cooling, which makes it a bit more refreshing as hands are dipped with the Greenland paddle style.

I've managed about 12 miles on each outing, so feel I'm getting a pretty good workout. The last couple of miles back to the put in has been against a stiff breeze, so I've made a wee detour, heading right into the wind and lake chop to take advantage of a tight reach to finish the evening off with. Invariably the wind has decided to die out just as the sail's raised...

I'm still very happy with the new deck layout for the Pacific Action Sail's sheets, and next week it should be even better, as I'm having a special base for the masts made for me in California and it's due to arrive then - not in time, sadly, for this weekend's trip to the coast.

That's assuming I get to paddle next week... FliesWithKiwiBird and the wee one are back from San Diego on Tuesday. Can't wait.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Godwits Fly

A bar-tailed godwit, or just godwit to most Kiwis, has been found to have flown 11,500 kilometers (7,145 miles) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand - without taking a break for food or drink - in nine days. Apparently it's the longest nonstop bird migration ever measured.

The godwit's a bit of an icon in NZ, first immortalized in Robin Hyde's NZ classic of 1938, The Godwits Fly, and required reading for any NZ lit course. In those early days, New Zealanders (we weren't really 'Kiwis' then) pretty much saw Britain as the "Mother Country", and anyone who was anybody, particularly within the arts, believed they had to escape to the Mother Country to find themselves and thus some identity. Katherine Mansfield was a prime example.

Thus the godwit was the embodiment of the flight north - the big escape to a not so parochial land. In The Godwits Fly, Hyde speaks of a childhood lesson on the migrant godwits, “They fly north, they fly north…. Most of us here are human godwits; our north is mostly England. Our youth, our best, our intelligent, brave and beautiful, must make the long migration, under a compulsion they hardly understand”.

In some respects this "compulsion" still exists (there's me, for one...). Kiwis now believe in the "Big OE" (overseas experience), but they're typically happier to return these days. (Mind you, it's believed we have around a million ex-pats living somewhere overseas, and with a resident population of only 4 million, that's a fair few Kiwis floating around.)

What was exciting in NZ literature in these early years is that you can slowly observe the process of change by which writers resolved these tensions and “became New Zealand” … “whole people, not exiles or minds divided”.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Freya to NZ

Well, here's a biggie. Freya Hoffmeister declared yesterday on her blog, that in October she'll be paddling solo around New Zealand's South Island. This will be one hell of an adventure, which could take four months or more, feeling more like paddling open ocean rather than just following a coast line. Following closely on the heels of her circumnavigation of Iceland just a few months ago, she's having a great year. No mention of whether she'll be supported or not, but even with, this is a hell of a trip, and one I'm sure she's up to.

I understand the circumnavigation of the South Island's only been done twice - by our own Kiwi, Paul Caffyn (in a Grahame Sisson, I would like to add;), and the American, Chris Duff. Both wrote books about their adventure, Obscured by Waves, and Southern Exposure, respectively. Both are great reads, and will give some idea of the enormity of the task.

She'll have some amazing scenery to both shoulders as she paddles. The east coast is usually the calmer of the two, sometimes protected from the oft-breezy fohns coming down from the Alps. There'll be slightly easier beach landings, with a mixture of rock and sand. She'll definitely have to stop in Kaikoura for cray, and I had the best burger there many years ago. Christchurch and Lyttelton will be excellent ports of call, as will Dunedin and Invercargill. After that, she's going to be pretty much on her own until she hits Westport and Greymouth on the west coast, and those harbours have notorious bars to cross. Probably the most scenic and restful part of the trip will be along the top through Abel Tasman National Park and the Malborough Sounds - she'll have the most magnificent scenery and wildlife to play along with her. And my brother and his family will wave as she passes Nelson. In fact, she'll just have to say kia ora to them in Nelson.

I look forward to following her progress!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Best laid plans...

There is something faintly poetic about listening to the marine forecast, and familiar. The voice I hear is the same I've heard in North Carolina for three summers now and, though we've never met, I feel as though we could be old friends.

This morning in rainy Beaufort, ready to go but weather-wary after rainstorms and tornado warnings chased me on yesterday's drive to the coast, the small-craft advisory for the entire weekend set the tone. First, I thought, well, it's only 20 to 25 nor' westerlies (onshore) with seas five to seven feet. But common sense, the desire to paddle another day, and a faint voice in San Diego invariably won over; and the fear of being a discussion point on some such forum as on the silly bugger who'd heard the warnings but set out anyway.

And I wouldn't want to be remembered as my dad would sing - which I only recently learned, after hearing the tune for nigh on 46 years, is about a chap, Charlie, in fact, stuck forever for lack of a dime, in the Boston subway - "and she never returned, no she never returned, and her fate is still unlearn'd..." (Perhaps that's the only line of the song my dad knows - I'll have to ask him - not much discussion of Boston in NZ, unless you're an NBL fan - though most Kiwis have a good giggle at the concept of "The World Series".)

And another fact learned by repeatedly listening to the marine forecast; when the chap says "small craft advisory until late Sunday", it never changes, no matter how many times you listen to it.

Update: 1622hrs: The advisory is now through 'til Thursday! And I have plans to head down again this coming weekend...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Smell of a wee trip

Off to the coast to Beaufort this afternoon for a weekend's paddling.

This has to be one of the best trips within and out the Outer Banks, and one I never tire of doing. I usually leave early Saturday morning (after staying the night in Beaufort) from the very end of Harkers Island, at the Rangers' Station. You can leave your transport overnight in the station's carpark. The office isn't usually open by the time I leave, so I fax them through a float plan a few days earlier.

Then it's a nice long paddle across Back Sound (scroll right down to the bottom of the map after you've clicked on it to enlarge) before popping out Beaufort Entrance into the big Atlantic.

The 13km (8 mile) paddle along Shackelford is magic - long slow ocean swells, long sandy vista, unspoiled dunes and, of course, Shackelford's famed wild horses, which you can typically see meandering along the beach, sometimes frolicking just for the hell of it.

Saturday's forecast is for westerlies later bearing NW 10-15 knots, so it should be a good paddle sail up the Island, or Banks as it's officially named.

I'll either camp at the Cape Lookout end of the Banks, or tuck myself just inside Cape Lookout for a bit of extra shelter - depends when Saturday night's and Sunday's nor'easterlies kick in. It always amazes me when camping on the Banks, that you can be sitting in your tent gazing out over the Atlantic, watching the sun going down in the west.

And then Sunday, after another long walk along the beach, I'll paddle back to Harkers via Barden Inlet, dipping my paddle to Cape Lookout lighthouse as I pass by.

Well, that's the plan...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sail tinkering

Sunday afternoon after a weekend on Lake Jordan, I finally got around to rerigging my Pacific Action Sail’s sheeting system. Even though the PAS was perfect for the Everglades Challenge earlier this year, I thought there could be a few improvements to the actual sheeting and deck layout. The current PAS-supplied system requires the use of two hands when adjusting the sail (where did that paddle go...?), and the two tiny loose jam cleats supplied are too small and fiddly to lock when you're under pressure.

I’m a great fan of clam cleats – drop your sheets and presto, they’re secure. Then I found a few postings by Frogy130, who also competed for the first time in this year’s EC. He too wasn’t happy with the sheeting system, and also preferred the use of clam cleats.

So that’s what I did. First I cut the sheet in half (ouch) – it’s normally a loop from each “mast”. Then two new holes per cleat were drilled each side of the cockpit (double ouch), slightly for’ad. I then fitted an aluminum clam cleat (Cleat, 1/8-1/4IN MK2) for each, that’d I bought from Beaufort's West Marine while introducing the wee one to the wonderful world of marine gear for the very first time.

First off in the safety of the garage I found that the new system is quicker to rig. Just run each sheet through the clips that PAS supplies, then through the cleat, popping a figure-of-eight knot in the end of each sheet to ensure it doesn’t run out through the cleat while underway. And that’s it.

Monday and Tuesday I tested the new system out on Jordan Lake. Yesterday was perfect, as it was blowing about 15 knots and there was only me and four windsurfers taking advantage of the great breeze. (I hit 9.2mph – the windsurfers were a wee bit faster ;)

Verdict: one hell of a lot easier, and quicker and safer to adjust when under high winds, with one hand if necessary. If anyone wants further information, I’m happy to oblige.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Weekend playing

FliesWithKiwiBird and the wee one flew back to San Diego early Saturday for a few weeks, or three weekends as I am counting it. It's the wee one's great grandma's big 90th bash, and his other great-grannie also lives nearby. Lucky wee sprog, meeting all the whanau. Pity he won't he remember it.

Anyway, this mouse is at play. I spent the weekend paddling one of our best local watering holes, Jordan Lake, or what's left of it. I've lived here three summers now, and the water level for this big man-made super pleasure lake is waaay down. North Carolina is feeling the drought pretty hard.

Even packed all the camping gear for the night and found my favourite place at New Hope Overlook - which you can only reach via water or a good walk-in - vacant. Heaven, for $9 bucks a night. Normally I have to clamber out at the bank to reach shore - now I have an entire "beach" to land on.

What was really good to see were three other families at three of the nine sites, all tents apitched, and three or four youngsters each from around three year-olds up. That'll be us, one day, I threatened over the cell to San Diego.

It was pretty darn warm Saturday in the mid-30s Celsius (mid-90F) - we just don't get temperatures like that in NZ, which had me snoozing for two hours at midday in my tent. Kind of shocked myself - after only two hours and eight miles paddling - dang this age business ;)

Sunday had me exploring a few bays I haven't checked out for two seasons, and a nice cooling headwind back to the put-in.

Sigh, Le tough. And I'll be out paddling every night after work Monday through Wednesday. Haircut Thursday and to Beaufort on Friday for a paddle/camp around Shackelford over the weekend.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Back home...

We had a lovely ten days in Beaufort, a couple of weeks ago... Time scoots.

Amazingly, the kayak never left the roof of the 4-Runner, thus an extremely handsome appendage as we explored the neighbouring countryside, visiting the occasional antique (aka junk) store. I finished my packed three books in three days, thus scarpered quite happily along with FliesWithKiwiBird to all the local second-hand stores (what we call "op shops" in NZ) to find more.

I'm a Ken Follett fan, having met him a few times in the UK, and then brought him out to NYC for a UCL alumni function I organized - so happily downed another of his. I'm also a dead keen fan of Dick Francis, who used to be the late Queen Mum's jockey, and writes a mean mystery based around the British horse racing industry. I've also recently discovered Carl Hiassen, and I get a huge kick out of reading his Florida Everglades-based novels, as invariably they'll be some mention of a place I passed during this year's Everglades Challenge. I also enjoy his not-so-tongue-in-cheek way of exposing the criminal treatment of the Everglades by big business and politicians alike. As I'm a big fan of anything icy and Antarctica in particular, I found a copy of Kelly Tyler-Lewis' The Lost Men. Shackleton's 1914 expedition is an amazing saga, and I've pretty much read everything on his endeavour. In his own book, South, he devotes a chapter to his Ross Sea party, who were to lay the depots for the second half of his traverse. For the first time, Tyler-Lewis' book covers the full story. A good read. Another story that's fascinated me since childhood is the shipwreck of the Medusa. I had the good fortune to see Théodore Géricault's magnificently stupendous and gruesome painting in the Louvre, "Le Radeau de la Méduse", a few years back. I've always wanted to learn the tale behind the story, and found a copy of Alexander McKee's Death Raft. What a tale. I was also lucky to find a copy of The Kite Runner, the first novel by Khaled Hosseini. Another P.D. James sneaked its way in as well. But to cap it all off, I found an old, well-worn copy of Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny - one of those books I've always meant to read but hadn't quite got around to. What a classic. I rang my dad when we got home and we ran through the books - we're big "what are you reading now" talkers - when we got to The Caine Mutiny, he remembered reading it soon after it was published in 1951, and he immediately said, "that was the chap with the marbles". A good memory.

Of course the highlight of the trip was dipping the wee one's toes in the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time! And his very first trip to West Marine, for a bit of hardware for a scheme I have to re-rig my Pacific Action Sail...