Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas cheer

Cheerio for Christmas, folks. I'll be back early in the new year.

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

Just a bit crook

Not too much happening, this end - have been struck with some dreaded lurgey, which has kept me off the water - haven't even had a chance to test the new boat. Have ordered from Ozzie a few new bits of gear for it, though - three new hatches, including the oval fibreglass aft top hatch, a cockpit cover and a spray skirt (or spray cover as the more testosterone-challenged Australasians call them).

We've also been busy with the Christmas festivities, thanking those that have meant a great deal to us this year. Yesterday we hosted the wee one's Little Gym group - great fun having seven or eight wee ones crawling around exploring new toys and territory and big people. Biggest problem was making sure everyone left with the kiddie they arrived with.

And everyone "up north" will be pleased to know that the week-long summer heat wave that hit us collapsed in fine form on Saturday. Hello winter! (Thankgoodness we fly out to San Diego next week...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

She's gone

Hate to see a grown man cry when he has to sell his boat. And I feel honored that I’ll be the one to look after it for him.

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 North Carolina. He then took the concept to Australia, and Mirage Sea Kayaks Australia is testament to his excellent reputation today. It was a Mirage kayak Andrew McAuley paddled, and Paul that Andrew worked with to help develop the boat.

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

And now I’m in a similar dilemma to SandyBottom, which boat do I use for next year’s Everglades Challenge – the Sisson or the Mirage… Kiwi vs. Ozzie…? Help!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Just finished reading Alan Gurney’s history of the compass, called, quite rightly, Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation (2004).

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

Skegs: failed rudders...

I’ve been avidly watching Freya's progress around NZ’s South Island, or the “mainland” as the South Islanders like to call it. Keeping up with how her equipment’s coping is always interesting, as with any expedition. One bit of her gear that’s pretty much given up the ghost, and is awaiting replacement, is her skeg. Only a few days into her trip she encountered problems with, what she so colourfully called, “this f*&%^% skeg”.

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

Just like summer

Amazing day out on the lake today - not a breath of wind, with temperatures at 22C (72F). I mean, this is supposed to be nearing the darkest days of winter, and here we are, bang in the middle of a heat wave. Even more surprisingly, tomorrow's forecast is for 25C (77F), and it's going to be like that for the rest of the week. Not four days ago I was wiping ice rain from my front windscreen.

Didn't even bother dressing for immersion - think I would have passed out.

SandyBottom was also out there, doing a 20-miler to the dam and back, but our paths didn't cross.

I'm starting to feel a bit guilty with my blogger pals waaay up north feeling the real pain of winter.

So to make up for my guilty pleasure, the motor went on the back window of the '92 4-Runner, which means I can't open the back door. At least it happened upon returning to my put-in and not before. I'm trying to figure out whether this is something I can fix myself, having just spent three hours earlier this week replacing a side lamp and front main headlamp - taking the grill right off, which I swear has never been done from when the car was originally built, and unbolting the main lamp took most of the time. But at 171,000 miles, I'll let it run to the ground - it's a great means of transport.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A few favourite quotes

Looking back through some files, I found a few of my old favourite kayaking-related quotes - always good to keep life in some perspective.

“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.

And in that vein, no one can beat good ol’ Tassie, Laurie Ford:
“Any misguided fool who goes to sea with the implicit belief that someone will come to their rescue, is a bloody idiot.”

“No one, in my opinion, should embark on the open ocean, the Antarctic, or any wilderness for that matter, not prepared to get out of trouble by his own efforts. By voluntarily challenging the elements he automatically assumes the responsibility for his own safety. He should not expect anyone to risk life and property on his behalf. The very idea of possible rescue is debilitating to the will; it should be replaced by self reliance.”
David Lewis

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.

I have this one on my office wall...
"Never put your body where your mind hasn’t been first.”
Chris Duff

And this one...
”Inspiration without nuts and bolts practicality and bit-by-bit efficiency is futile.”
Audrey Sutherland

“The fact is, in real canoeing, that is, in wild and unknown lands, you find no smooth roads to wheel a boat upon…”
John MacGregor

“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.”
Pete Dingle

“Paddling efficiently must be every one’s aim.”
Laurie Ford

“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.”
Nevil Shute

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."
Yogi Berra

"... 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.

Any of your own?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

National Jandal Day

80% of Kiwis own a pair or more of jandals - this Kiwi has at least four pairs lying around somewhere - so what better way to raise money for Surf Life Saving New Zealand, than to pay to wear your jandals to work. For tomorrow (today in NZ) is the inaugural National Jandal Day!

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

All I want for Christmas...

... are abs like Greg Barton. Well, so the latest Canoe & Kayak Buyers Guide for 2008 promised me I could have. I figure, with core muscles like his, I'll smoke the competition in next year's Everglades Challenge. (And the magazine also promised great apres-paddle results too!)

So on Monday, after a few weeks (read: nearly a month) of inactivity due to a few jollies to Florida and NZ, I started Greg's eight stomach-crunch exercise program. Apparently the difference between Greg and we mere mortals is that he does each of his eight crunches for 60 seconds, and we do them for only 30 seconds. Well, I'll have to report that I'm still at the mere mortal level, after another session this morning.

But it must be doing something, because when I walk around the office or sneeze, I swear I can feel every individual core muscle.
So in the interest of sharing the pain, here we go - 60 seconds each, no stopping between changeovers...
  1. Lay flat on the floor with legs slightly bent, and crunch your stomach to 30 degrees.
  2. Lift your knees to your chest and touch elbows with each rep.
  3. 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!
  4. Keep your legs in the air and put your hands behind your head. Bring your legs up to meet your elbows with every crunch.
  5. Now bend your knees and continue crunching in a bicycle motion, twisting so you bring your opposite knee to your elbow with each crunch.
  6. 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.
  7. Repeat with your other leg crossed.
  8. 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

Winter paddling

Excellent couple of hours paddle out on the lake yesterday (“You’re only back a week and you think you’re going paddling?”), partly to test out my new SPOT satellite tracker, courtesy of my fabulous Everglades Challenge sponsor, BubbaGirl. But more of that when I'm done testing.

Cool air temps around C10, but flat calm to start off with. Trouble is, when you’re dressing for immersion, you tend to cook once you get a bit of steam up. And I have to giggle a bit with the expensive breathable gear we love to buy, and then we throw a non-breathable PDF and neoprene sprayskirt over most of our torsos.

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

Silly buggers

"Silly buggers". A term of endearment in NZ, and Australia, said with a bit of a smile and slight twist of the head, adding a touch of respect. But that's what you could probably call Justin Jones and James Castrission, currently paddling their custom-built tandem kayak across the Tasman Sea, on an expedition called "Crossing the Ditch" - a colloquism given to crossing the Tasman.

They left Oz on November 13 and hoped to reach Auckland by Christmas Day, pretty good timing for the 2200km trip. But fairly constant headwinds and tricky currents are taking their toll, adding another 800kms to the tally and making that deadline date probably unreachable. Today, they're about half-way across.

Increased fatigue and waning morale have taken a toll on the expedition. The pair report three indicators each night to their support team to gauge their current stamina. On a scale of one to 10, they each rate today their physical fitness as a seven but their mental toughness and fatigue levels have dropped to five and below.

The toll on their equipment's hurting as well - the salt water's buggering up their rudder cables, and their automatic desalinator pump and cabin bilge pump have given up, taking valuable paddling time away to resort to manual pumping for both.

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.]