Monday, July 30, 2007

Summer storm safety

Last summer Jane and I were out paddling on Jordan Lake and were caught in a typical North Carolina summer lightning storm. We were way out on the lake and could see the dark clouds looming. Furiously we paddled for the nearest shore to try and beat the lightning and thunder. Once we landed, it poured, and the lightning was quite spectacular across the lake.

Most of the two to three hours waiting for the storm to pass over was spent in some hilarity, discussing just what we should be doing to protect ourselves from a lightning strike. In hindsight, after a quick refresher once I got home, we got some things right, but a few key things wrong.

  • Get off the water as soon as possible. Don’t worry that you haven’t reached your campsite or got back to the put in. Lightning commonly strikes the tallest object – out on the water, that’s you, sitting in your kayak.
  • Get off the beach and head inland – lightning has a canny way of striking the land where beach and water meet.
  • Leave your paddle with your boat – quite a nifty wee lightning rod, that paddle.
  • When inland, head for the lowest sheltered area you can find.

  • Sheltering under a grove of trees is fine – just don’t stand under a lone tree as, once again, lightning commonly strikes the tallest object.
  • Crouch down and try to minimize your contact with the ground – keep your feet together and head down low.
  • Spread well out if you're in a group so if one of you gets hit, others can administer CPR. If you’re all huddling together the risk is you all get knocked unconscious.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after the storm’s over before heading back out.

If anyone else has some sound advice, I’d appreciate hearing about it!

PHOTO: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)

Friday, July 27, 2007

I've been here...

Have to admit, I have a fetish for charts and maps (to name a few...).

Interesting article in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune (discovered as I am now reading about the Tour de France’s continuing doping scandals (and finishing off Harry Potter and the Missouri 340) rather than watching it on TV), tilted “Mapmaking for the masses, online”.

Seems that with the introduction of simple cartography tools on the Internet, we’re creating an extremely detailed map of the world – a “GeoWeb”, as it’s being phrased – built by millions of you and me’s from all over. And this GeoWeb is reshaping the world of mapmaking, making it likely to be “both richer and messier than any other”.

Don’t you just love it! Telling stories is probably the biggest rush behind blogging. And reading of folks’ paddling journeys and adventures is always a big part of that. And being able to tell your story with a map, adding in your GPS tracks, pointers to watch out for (good or bad), or clickable photos, just adds to the fun.

Truly, no person need be an island.

Chart above: "Sourced from Land Information New Zealand data. Crown Copyright Reserved." "NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pro vs. amateur

Most sports have me by the throat. (Except for this cage fighting thing.) I'd rather be out there doing it all myself, but I'm also happy to sit at home in front of the box or laptop (explaining everything to a nearly 12-week-old) watching nefariously.

I'm also a biker - nothing serious - really just semi skinny tyres on an old mountain bike to get me to work and back - so the Tour de France is one of my annual highlights. Last year I was totally sucked in. Had tears in my eyes (I get a bit emotional about all this stuff, much to my partner's bemusement) as Floyd Landis smoked everyone away. Subsequently, I almost decided to boycott watching it this year as I got extremely tired of the doping scandals.

But looking at this year's lineup, all the 'good' boys seemed to be there. Hey, even NZ's Julian Dean was competing! So down I sat each evening (explaining everything to a nearly 12-week-old), just delighting in the performances of both individuals and teams. Contador, Soler, Vino, Evans, Kloeden, Liepheimer, Rasmussen, Dean. But really, every single one of the boys on the roads. And who could forget Vino's pain and sheer grit and determination that had him winning not only a time trial but also a right nasty section of the Pyrenees, with 60 stitches in his knees!

And then last night it all turned sour again. Vinokourov has been sent packing, and the entire Astania team with him.

Well, last night I managed the first 176 pages of the final Harry Potter and, as always, am hanging on every word (also dreamed about it all night (well, 'til we were awoken at 0300 and never really got back to sleep), which had me thinking that there are probably MILLIONS of folks of all ages having similar dreams).

And it dawned on me that watching via my laptop the progress of those great girls and boys in the Missouri 340 is what it's really all about. The pure - amateur - FUN of paddling - whether it be a race or for the sheer heck of it - and with a group of like-minded folks who are similarly as passionate about propelling themselves along with a stick in two hands, and a vessel of some sort to steer them by.

And I'll also mention that Dawn (aka SandyBottom) is SMOKIN' that Missouri!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Misery 340

The Missouri 340 kicked off at 0800 this morning, billed as the world's longest non-stop river race. In fact, Guinness World Records is out pacing the length of the race, just to make sure.

From Kansas City to St. Charles, racers have 100 hours to complete the 340 miles, meaning they have to be in St. Charles by noon on Saturday.

At least going with the current, around 3mph, the 70-team-strong competitors will have extreme temperatures, and possible thunderstorms and headwinds to compete against. Kinda glad I had a good excuse as not being able to compete this year ;)

But I'll be watching avidly as some good WaterTribe pals are out there, notably as Team Kruger:
  • Dawn (aka SandyBottom), who was competing with Stan (aka Etchimen) as a Kruger tandem, but is now a Kruger solo, with Stan acting as river bank support
  • Mark (aka ManitouCruiser and Mr. Kruger himself) and Brian (aka dabiscuit and Capt'n of the 'O' Dark 30) in a Kruger tandem
  • Alan (aka SOS), Dawn's son, in another Kruger solo.
Another WaterTriber competing is Marek (aka Wayfarer), who also competed last year, as well as RiverJohn, in another solo Kruger.

Dawn's husband, Paul (aka DancesWithSandyBottom), will be updating Dawn's progress, as he always does so well, and you can also follow along here, at the M340's site.

Go WaterTribers! And Team Kruger!

UPDATE: The Kansas City Star posted this shot this morning, as the kayakers set off. That looks like a Kruger top left, and possibly Marek in the middle in his Thunderbolt-X.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The rain in... the UK

While I'm a Kiwi born and bred, I'm also lucky enough to hold a UK passport (thankfully, also an EU passport), which means I like to keep an eye on what's happening back in Blighty.

If you haven't been keeping up with UK weather reports (a Kiwi obsession - the weather), then here's something you'll already probably know from those stereotypes of pommy weather conditions - it's raining - a heck of a lot.

I first arrived in the UK in the summer of 1989
(with two sea bags, a sextant and 34 pounds sterling in my pocket, fresh from the Auckland-Fukuoka yacht race). I cooked. It was one of the hottest summers on record. Subsequent summers were more typical - a couple of days of warm sun, and then we all would say to each other over a healthy drink of Pimms, "well, then, if that's summer, we've had it."

This summer,
due to the combination of warm moist air, the much lower position of the Atlantic jet stream and the fact that the storms have been relatively slow to move away, has meant that the rain in Spain is not falling on the Iberian plain.

If you'd like to see some more photos of the flooding, here's your spot. The shot above is Louise Beale's from Fenny Compton: "We had to collect our children from school in our racing hovercraft, as all the roads into and out of the village were blocked."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hey mister, your boat's listing

Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing this from your kitchen window. That's what folks were surprised about in Auckland Harbour yesterday, and calls were aplenty to the ports authority and the harbour master's office, asking if the ship was in trouble.

But all is well. The Nora Maersk was having a hull thruster repaired, after loading up the stern so the urgent repair work could be carried out on the bow. There isn't a dry dock large enough in New Zealand to work on the 200m long container ship, so all the work's done in the middle of the harbour.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wearable power

I wouldn't normally be promoting something from the Department of Defense, but this could have some great spinoffs for the outdoors industry, for those of us who rely on battery power for some of our related gear.

The DoD's recently announced a wearable power competition - a $1million prize for the whizzo who can lighten the load US soldiers carry on their backs - largely due to the high-tech gear that uses batteries - which can weigh anywhere from 9 to 45kgs (20 to 100lbs). Ouch.

The whole winning prototype must weigh 4 kgs (8.8lbs) or less and produce 20 watts average power for 4 days or 96 hours. It has to be wearable, like a vest, and will undergo rigorous testing.

Interested? Here are the competition rules.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quick lickin'

Keeping up the sailing, and Viking themes, for a day or two longer, a 15-metre replica of a Viking ship made from five million ice cream sticks is undergoing sea trials in preparation for crossing the Atlantic Ocean, from the Netherlands to the US.

The ship, named Thor, was glued together by Robert McDonald, his son and more than 5,000 children from 18 schools in the Netherlands.

McDonald says he initiated the project, which took four years to complete, to show children they could do anything they set their minds to.

"It's not only a ship of ice cream sticks, it's also the world's largest recycled object," he said.

McDonald is now looking for a crew (with good teeth) and hopes to attempt a crossing of the Atlantic as early as this September.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Roll on 2009

Well, it just wasn't meant to happen. Alinghi keeps the America's Cup. The Kiwis, winners of the Louis Vittion Cup and thus the challengers to the America's Cup, head back to Aoteoroa, proud of their achievements, but always remembering that there is no second in this game.

But it was a heck of a close finish on that last race!

Kia kaha.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Danes are coming!

In what could almost be described as an oversized kayak (with apologies to the Norse), a Viking ship has set sail for Dublin from the Danish port of Roskilde, in an attempt to recreate the voyages undertaken by early Norsemen.

The 30m (100ft) long replica, called Sea Stallion, is said to be the world's largest reconstructed Viking vessel.

It is based on a ship made nearly 1,000 years ago in Ireland, which in 1962 was excavated from the Roskilde fjord.

A crew of 65 volunteers will travel the 1,900km (1,200 miles) to Dublin, using only oar and sail power.

You can follow their progress here.