Friday, November 14, 2008

Small world

News travels fast. Not a few hours after I'd contacted the wonderful Peter Coates, Yukon 1000 organizer extraordinaire, to report that Dawn and I would have to pull out of 2009's race, that a reporter from CBC Yukon in Whitehorse called me for a radio interview on the reasons for our pulling out of the race.

Economy, economy, economy.

I haven't found a link if the interview did in fact air, but I have been enjoying listening to CBC Whitehorse, and particularly their Kiwi-like (thankfully, Centigrade) fascination with the weather. Hey, it's snowing up there!

UPDATE (0942 EST): Woo hoo! Just heard the interview on the radio. (Love the Internet.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

All unsigned: Yukon 1000

Our world's dire economy is hurting pretty well everyone, top up and bottom down--even those of us who sometimes have the luxury to dream about paddling the world's inaugural longest kayak race, the 2009 Yukon 1000.

I work in the not-for-profit world and raising money in this climate is far more of a challenge than normal. And smaller non-profits than ours and the communities they serve are hurting--badly.

So sadly, but not surprisingly, Dawn and my sponsor for the Yukon 1000, BubbaGirl, has had to shelve its support for our Yukon 1000 quest for another year.

Not a problem. These things happen. And BubbaGirl remains the fantastic supporter it is for the 2009 Everglades Challenge.

We paddle on!

Friday, October 17, 2008

All signed up: Yukon 1000

All confirmed. Dawn (aka SandyBottom) and I are all signed up for the inaugural 2009 Yukon 1000 Canoe and Kayak Race. July 20, next year, as Team BubbaGirl, we should be sitting in our already-rented Seaward Passat G3, Greenland paddles in hand, rearing to go.

If you've a few minutes to spare, it's worth catching up with discussions on the Yukon 1000 online forum, with interesting discussions on bears and guns and bear spray, etc. As a Kiwi, one has a natural aversion to guns, unless there's a possum breathing down one's neck, so this is all new territory for this US transplant.

BTW, if anyone knows of a good 2nd-hand Passat G3 for sale or longish rent (or sponsorship gift!), please let me know. We need a training boat!

Thanks to Peter Coates, race organizer, for the photo.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I must go down to the sea again...

You may remember a few blog posts back—if you've managed to hang out this long—that our 87-year-old father had sold his 32-foot keeler to my brother Rob, and had bought a 36-foot launch, Rising Star—the arthritis in his fingers made hanging on to the sheets just that wee bit too uncomfortable.

Well, he knew there was some rot in the flying bridge, and a deal was struck with the vendor accordingly. Now that the boat's up in a local boatbuilder's shed for repair, they've found the rot's travelled that wee bit further, down into the structure of the main cabin. Hence the rather well ventilated look the boat's showing at this time.

Knowing dad, he's chomping at the bit to get the dang thing repaired, sans flying bridge—extra windage anyway—and back out on the water for the summer.

I'll keep you posted on progress...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nepali girls kayak

Here’s a project I love the story behind—something my sister Clio put me on to.

A small team of female raft guides and kayak instructors from around the world, including NZ, Sweden and the US, have come together to undertake a project in Nepal. The rafting and kayaking industry in Nepal is booming, which is great for the nation, however currently there is 0% Nepali women working in the industry as they are not given the same opportunities as the local Nepali men. And so the project is to set up a Nepali Girls Kayaking Club and to teach them how to paddle safely. The will also put these keen Nepali women through a comprehensive raft guide training programme in order to give them a helping hand and equal opportunities into the local rafting industry.

The plan is to take over from NZ, and elsewhere, a bunch of kayaks and equipment to kickstart the Nepali Girls kayaking Club into action. Sophie Hoskins and her NZ team of instructors needs as much support as they can get—and it’s great to see such notable companies as Kokatat and Icebreaker as sponsors. They are currently looking for any donations (and financial aid or second-hand white water kayaks and equipment are all a big help!).

The story resonates—in 1996, when I spent a few weeks tramping in Nepal with one of my idols Doug Scott, and his company, Community Action Treks, a handful of our sherpas were young women—we called them "sherpettes"—around 15 to 18-years-old. We were told that having this opportunity to work was huge for them—many of them had been "given" away as young brides from poor villages, who now found themselves living in squalor in Kathmandu, abused by older husbands. Working as sherpettes gave them new lives. You could tell that they were happy as they snuggled together at night, giggling and chatting away, from carrying loads over long days that were as heavy as the men's.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


With world unemployment on a bit of a rise due to the current economic crisis, it's always good to see a bit more imagination coming to the fore when looking for new staff. (But I hasten to add that this blog is not becoming a political or economic commentary--particularly after such a hiatus--but I can't resist "commenting" that while I can vote in the upcoming NZ elections--even after not having lived there since 1989--I can't vote in the upcoming US elections, after having lived here for eight or so years, paying a good amount of taxes and being "legal" to boot.)

My brother Rob sent me the wanted ad above, placed in shop windows in Auckland.

Not a lot to do with kayaking I must admit, but a bit of levity in these troubling times, on the water or not, can't be a bad thing.

On a personal note, life's good albeit it extremely busy; the Wee One continues to amaze and delight at just over 17 months; the leaves are slowly turning colour, though the late summer days retain their warmth; and just occasionally I get out to paddle.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

BubbaGirls paddle!

Well, I did get back from Albuquerque and the launch party for BubbaGirl - just that the new job at the Nasher Museum has gobbled up my life - it's week three in the new position, and I'm loving it.

So, what happened in Albuquerque? What a party! Founded by Mary Holsenbeck, nearly 200 women, and a few honorary men, turned up to hear just what BubbaGirl is all about and what the organization plans to achieve. I was humbled to be in the speaking company of Mercury 13 astronaut, Wally Funk, and historic motorcyle rider and up-and-coming actress, DJ Jones. In front of the welcoming crowd we talked about what makes us BubbaGirls, and how we hope to help other women of all ages and backgrounds "get into real life."

I detailed Dawn and my plans to compete in 2009's inaugural Yukon 1000 Canoe & Kayak Race. And it was officially revealed that BubbaGirl will be our title sponsor for the race.

Woohoo! We are now Team BubbaGirl!
More news to come!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I fly to Albuquerque, NM, pre-sparrow fart tomorrow morning, courtesy of BubbaGirl, to help launch the organization's new personna. So if you're in that neck of the woods tomorrow evening, come along and join us. I'll be the chica revving up interest in SandyBottom's and my entry in the 2009 Yukon 1000.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sailing away

I’ve jut finished reading Tania Aebi’s story of her 1985-1987 circumnavigation around the world on her 26 foot sloop, Varuna. The book’s called Maiden Voyage, and I couldn’t put it down. Fearing for his daughter’s teenage behaviour, Aebi’s father pretty much plops her in the boat at 18 years of age and shoves her off, hoping the experience will make a better person of her. It does, and after nearly two-and-half-years, she completes her voyage, learning celestial navigation along the way, how to raise a cat at sea, and the vagaries of a troublesome diesel.

Eight years earlier, in mid-1978, Barbara Cameron – my best friend and also a keen yachtie – and I sat in our high school history class and wrote out the list of equipment we’d need to do exactly the same trip, and to be the first women to sail non-stop around the world. Sadly, but greatly, the Kiwi Naomi James beat us to it, later that same year.

Aebi falls in love along the way, marrying her Olivier upon her return to New York. They adored each other.

I did a Google on her to find out what she’s up to now. Still sailing, she’s currently on a Pacific Ocean voyage with her two sons, 13 and 16 years old. But sadly it seems the love affair ended some time ago rather acrimoniously. Still, while love may end, thankfully the quest for adventure stays strong, and now she’s sharing that with her family. Her current trip log makes for good reading... and itchy feet.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

PLB in action

Like me, you're probably keen on reading any story related to the use - particularly successful use - of a personal locater beacon (PLB).

I subscribe to Stephen Regenold's The Gear Junkie, a daily and weekly blog e-news devoted to new outdoors gear (though I'm yet to win the weekly give away!). Regenold recently posted a Q&A article detailing a mountaineering incident in early June in which a PLB was employed. One of the involved climbers, Bill Becher, a writer from southern California, had the ACR MicroFix PLB unit in his pack, though he never expected to use it. But while descending from Mt. Gilbert near Bishop, Calif., in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Becher’s friend and climbing partner fell and broke his leg. They were several miles from civilization with no good options.

An interesting lesson learned from the incident, which can neatly be related back to kayaking, is that the PLB isn’t that precise and you need some way to signal rescuers. Becher says that the helicopter had difficulty spotting them until they saw him waving his red parka.

So don't forget to carry that signal mirror and some flares with you!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Last day...

It was my last day of work at Sigma Xi on Thursday, and my colleagues and friends gave us a right royal send off. Particularly the effort Sharon put into making and icing the cake, as well as David finding the appropriate decoration, courtesy of REI. Of course, the WeeOne stole the show...

Now it's two weeks break until I start my new job! One may think that that gives me some time to paddle, but, oh no, FliesWithKiwiBird has a list of tasks around the place as long as my sleeping paddle.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The new boat

Just for those who may be interested, here's dad's new boat, Rising Star, up on the hard at the marina in Whitianga on the Coromandel. He found that the flying bridge was pretty rotten, so got a few pingas knocked off the final price. One of the local boat builders is to build him a new one over the winter, which NZ's slipping into. To help with getting around, dad's younger brother Allan helped put in a new capstan, which can be operated from the flying bridge and the internal steering console. At 87, all these tricks keep you out on the water longer!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Adventure arising

My brother Rob has a wonderful adventure coming up in the next few days. Dad, who turned 87 in April, recently sold his 32ft keeler to him, as dad's bought a 36ft launch. We appreciate that this is a big mind set change for dad, but he realised that if he's to keep out on the water, then bowing to power rather than sail may be the best move for him.

But dad lives in Whitianga on the Coromandel in the North Island, and Rob and his family live in Nelson at the top of the South Island (west of Picton on the map above). Today, Rob's flying north to spend a few days provisioning the boat up, and then sailing it home. Rob's a very competent sailor (here’s a story he wrote on a trip to Fiji from NZ), and joining him will be two equally competent yachties: Tina and Andrew Troup–siblings from Christchurch. Tina’s sailed to Antarctica and other antipodean islands, and Andrew’s building his own yacht (alloy) and has crossed the Pacific, among other trips.

This will be a heck of a trip. So they don't have to cross the notorious Cook Strait between the North and South Islands, they'll be sailing north up the east coast from the Coromandel, up and over Cape Reinga–which can be very turbulent and has often been named the worst bit of ocean in the world–and down the west coast. This is not a trip for the faint hearted! Once down the west coast, there's hardly a decent bar-less port to duck into.

They should also be well covered for safety gear–Andrew’s bringing his sextant–and they'll have a PLB, two VHF, two GPS, liferaft (hired) and an inflatable dinghy.

I am quite envious!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I scream, you scream...

Ice cream’s a big deal in New Zealand. Kiwis are amongst the highest per capita consumers of ice cream in the world—lying either 2nd or 3rd (with Australia) behind the USA. In fact, Kiwis each eat on average around 18 litres of ice cream per annum.

One of the first things I do when I get back home is to get my tongue around either a blueberry or a hokey pokey ice cream conehokey pokey being our national icon ice cream. Or perhaps a rum and raisin…

So much so is it a big thing that this year's annual New Zealand Ice Cream Awards attracted a record 206 entries.

International judging guidelines are followed, with each ice cream being awarded a maximum 100 points, with points deducted for imperfections in appearance, body and texture, flavour and melting defects.

Interestingly, the mainstay of ice cream flavoursvanillawon the top prize, beating the more unusual flavours of peanut butter, bacon and egg and Mexican. Entered by Invercargill business Deep South, the standard vanilla flavour impressed judges more than a raft of other more exotic choices. Deep South was also named as winner of the Best in Category prize for their standard chocolate and hokey pokey ice creams.

But what makes me feel good about eating ice cream, is that ice cream is about 50% air by volume
so shouldn’t that mean half the calories?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fridel Meyer

I saw the name Fridel Meyer mentioned in Sea Kayaker magazine’s latest eNews. Seems this young German woman was ahead of her time in her adventurous sea kayaking exploits. There’s not much to be found on her, but I dug as deep as I could!

In 1932 she paddled her folding kayak—a Klepper—from Bavaria to London. And the next year she shadowed Captain John Nolan—apparently much to his annoyance—as he attempted to paddle right around the U.K. in a “race,” of sorts, sponsored by The Wide World magazine. Nolan was the joint holder of the world record distance for inland waters, at 5,551 kms (3,450 miles).

Apparently neither made it, even though some books reference that she did win “the long-distance contest.” Meyer pulled at Montrose, 965 kms (600 miles) into the trip, ironically due to serious injuries caused in a car accident. With heart problems, Nolan made another 58 kms (36 miles), pulling out at Aberdeen.

Meyer returned the following year for another attempt, this time in a clockwise direction. It seems no one knows how far she got, but she successfully rounded Lands End and headed north.

Monday, June 2, 2008

SPOT under the spotlight

I'm a great fan of, the Web site, and magazine, dedicated to shaving the kilos and grams off your back, your body and your feet. Much of BPL's advice is relevant to sea kayaking, particularly for those long distance trips we yearn for.

BPL has recently posted the most comprehensive review of the SPOT satellite messenger yet undertaken, posing the question, does this highly anticipated technological breakthrough live up to the hype? Interestingly, BPL's reviewers are unable to rate SPOT, as they believe SPOT "has yet to deliver its promised functionality and message delivery reliably."

If you're seriously considering buying a SPOT, I thoroughly recommend subscribing to BPL - well worth the money - and reading this review. But I would also suggest that you read the review keeping in mind that the majority of tests undertaken were by backpackers out in the wilderness, where a clear and unobstructed view of the sky is not often possible.

With my own eight or nine months of testing SPOT (and a review I wrote for Sea Kayaker magazine is out in the next issue), I have found SPOT to be very reliable, when used for kayaking, where an open sky is usual. I'm still a SPOT fan, and so is FliesWithKiwiBird.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Make money, and do some good

I sometimes buy stuff from Moosejaw. I like their funky style and service - they call it "Moosejaw madness."

I received a sales e-mail from them this morning, which made me call and congratulate them. I know they're out to make a profit, as every well-run business should be, but they've also seen that there are people in need in this world, no matter what the politics of their leading government may be.

So, if you buy a tent from Moosejaw, you get 20% off if you send in your old tent to them, and then they'll ship all those old tents off overseas to help earthquake survivors in China.

Good marketing, good money-making scheme, good social conscience.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't leave your boat

A few blog pasts back, in March, I covered a story on accountant Bill Heritage, who was forced to abandon his 7.9m sloop Air Apparent about 90 nautical miles west of New Zealand's Kaipara Harbour, when his inexperienced crew ignored his orders and set off the yacht's emergency locator beacon. Much to Heritage's chagrin they were subsequently picked up by rescue helicopter.

Yesterday, the boat was found drifting about 210 nautical miles (389km) off North Cape, upright and drifting with its mast intact and its sail dragging in the water.

The decision on whether to salvage the abandoned yacht now rests with the insurance company, which had finally paid out after much haggling. Interestingly, the "mutineers" have donated $14,000 to the helicopter services that saved them, to help cover the $20,000 rescue costs.

But the moral of the story here, is that in pretty much most conditions, don't leave your boat! Which means that to head off to sea, in any size craft, we need the skills, equipment and know-how to use that equipment to ensure that we come back in one piece.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chart fun

Pouring over charts has long time been a passion of mine, and I'm sure many of you feel the same. Fantasy trips, and those truly on the go, come alive when exploring remote coastlines and planning far off routes.

Thus imagine my delight when my brother Rob recently turned me on to a site he's found, offering TIF-downloadable charts from all over the world, courtesy of the New Zealand government. Now this is something to really get the blood pumping. Click on the second chart offered, NZ14061, and imagine yourself cruising the Pacific. Then click on NZ14601 and you too can appreciate what it takes to paddle across the Tasman Sea.

You even have the ability to draw on the charts, insert text and photos, etc.

The charts range anywhere from 3 to over 20MB, but saved to a disk and then printed off at your favourite Kinkos or the like, you should be good to go.

Dream on!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Girls sail, too

I'm a great believer that as a young girl, if you don't see pictures or read stories of other girls and women doing cool stuff like playing with test tubes, making rockets, flying in rockets, throwing a curve ball, running a country, balancing a budget, kayaking or sailing, you don't automatically consider yourself able to do so.

Thus consider my angst as I perused the latest West Marine 2008 sourcebook, where on pp80-81, West Marine is promoting youth sailing in general, and the new O'pen BIC sailing dinghy in particular. "Youth sailing." What a marvellous concept. But to me, youth means boys AND girls. There are two "action" photos of six "youth" having a ball in these new boats, and not one of those "youth" is a girl. How on earth are girls supposed to consider themselves eligible to be part of this action if business and advertisers don't consider the negative connotations they create when they don't balance their images and their words?

You may think this is merely a feministic rant. It's not. Many a study has been completed on the consequences of non-gender balanced material - why did it take so long for MBA, law, veterinary and medical schools to now have equal applications (and graduations)? And why are engineering and "hard" science applications from women still so low?

Kudos to one company for taking this step. MacMillian/McGraw Hill, publishers of many an elementary school text book, contracted Sally Ride Science to gender balance every one of its text books. No longer is it just boys peering down a microscope or dissecting a frog.

And another reason why Geena Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The institute works with entertainment creators and companies to help educate the next generation of content-creators, and to help inform the public about the need to increase the number of girls and women in media aimed at kids, and to reduce stereotyping of both males and females.

Ironically, the majority of kayaking equipment advertisements I've seen over the past year or so seem to be fairly well gender balanced. Perhaps this is an industry which does have its act together.

Both images above are from West Marine.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Some may have noticed a strange quietness around this blog in the last week or so. I hate trying to make up anything to say for the sake of a blog entry. But there's always some reason for not being able to put fingers to keyboard. This time I'll blame it on a job change. Over the last month or so I've been interviewing and negotiating and, on June 23, I start a new job as director of development and external affairs at Duke's Nasher Museum of Art. I am hugely excited. In the meantime, I have a tonne of stuff to finish off here at Sigma Xi over the next few weeks, and finding a bit of time for a break before the start date.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GPS of the future...

So here's my crystal ball gazing for the future. I believe, that in about two years time, we will not recognize GPS' as they are now. Why?

Apple's new 3G iPhone will be introduced this summer, with two 8-gigabyte-memory and 16-gigabyte-memory models. The new iPhone will also have a GPS chip for navigation and "other location-based services."

Now, what does "other location-based services" mean? Perhaps this is a feature that may be in competition with the SPOT satellite messenger? (But perhaps not waterproof;)

I don't know, but I for one will be hoping my already out-of-date and discontinued Garmin GPSMAP 60CS will hang on for another couple of years.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ghost bike

Nancy Antoine Leidy was struck and killed by a truck on April 23, locally here in North Carolina. She was flung 58 feet, the driver of the truck being a drunk student, around mid-morning.

Naturally this has sparked many a conversation in the biking blogosphere.

If you drive a car, and see a cyclist on the road, please be mindful of us.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Canadian Ckayaker visits

We were very privileged to have Michael Bradley, aka Canadian Ckayaker visiting over the weekend, dragging him from dinner party to dinner party over three nights, a bit of gardening, a pick up of a new gym set for the WeeOne, and a wee bit of babysitting to boot.

Saturday night we had dinner with SandyBottom, Paul and Alan, Michael able to give some handy hints to Dawn on the last finishing touches for her SOF.

Sunday saw us out on the water, introducing Michael to the joys of our local Jordan Lake. Launching from Ebeneezer Point, we enjoyed flat calm, sunny conditions right up to the Haw, where we sat on rocks nibbling on French bread and cheese listening to the babble of the passing river.

About an hour from the put in, the black clouds started rolling on, with the occasional rumble of thunder. Fairly confident they'd pass to the nor-west of us, we paddled on home. About 20 minutes from the put in, it turned very, very dark, and the rain started. A slight breeze picked

up. Within minutes, the rain was a downpour and the wind blowing a good 20knots. Our flat calm lake was now a two to three feet chop. Grateful it was on our aft quarter, we managed a few surfs home, but I found my boat a bit skittish with no extra gear on board. Quite a blast!

I was thankful we weren't on one of big lakes way up north that Gordon Lightfoot sings about - this may have been a different story.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I do...

A big day this afternoon in our wee world. Off to court for me to legally adopt the WeeOne.

Months and months of paper work and waiting and $$$ have slowly passed us by...

We were lucky to have some of our closest friends along to support us, who helped shed a tear or two on the occasion.

I've never been in a court of law to place my left hand on the Bible and raise the right to swear that I'll tell only the truth, but luckily the judge excused me from raising the right, as I had the WeeOne on the left, and the right one holding his small container of Cheerios. She even excused me from leaving a Cherrio on the floor.

After a long series of questions from our attorney, and then a few from the judge, who wanted to know exactly what "extreme sports" entailed, as noted in the elaborate home study report (that's another story!), and whether I had enough life insurance and really intended to take him with me on next year's Y1K, everything was duly signed off...

... and I am officially now the second parent of the WeeOne. Mum. Sigh.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where did you find that?

One of our favourite sayings we heard from our grandfather, Gramp, was, "Where did you find that? Floating down the river on a log?" (I use it often now with the WeeOne.) And seeing this wonderful sleep concept from Okooko (which means "to cradle in arms" in Maori) just brought this old saying to mind. Heaven knows why...

Okooko is a New Zealand company with a new store just opened in Philly, of all places. "Float," as above, was launched at NZ's Furniture Fashion in May last year, and voted by the public as 'Best piece of bedroom furniture' in the NZ made competition.

Designer David Trubridge has worked from boatbuilding to furniture making, and sailed through the Caribbean and the Pacific with his family in Hornpipe. He sees “Sleep is a voyage through dreams when we wholly give ourselves up in trust, lying curled up in our bed vessel feeling safe and cosy. It can be ten minutes in the office, an hour on the lawn or all night in any place we pull our cradle to.”

Personally, if we could all kayak in something like Float, imagine what a happy world this would be!

Of course, I also love the photo as it's taken from the beach in front of the marina in Tauranga, my home town. That's the famous "Mount" across the harbour - Mount Maunganui - many a time have we sailed out that entrance on a new voyage, or walked up the Mount's summit and marvelled at the view across the Bay of Plenty. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Old man and the sea

Happy birthday, Dad!

Cheers to 87 years.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is it the boat or the paddler...?

You'll all be familiar with the age-old argument related to the speed you can get out of your boat, and whether it's really the boat or the paddler that makes us "winners." (This camp tends to fall on the paddler's side.) But still we'll hang out for that boat that shaves off a few grams or even kilos with the transition from plastic to kevlar, sharper lines and fork out over $450 for a racing carbon fibre wing paddle.

Now it seems the argument's also hitting the competitive world of swimming, where Speedo's come out with the LZR Racer Highneck Bodyskin - for only US$550 (NZ$704). Not just another swim suit (or "togs" as we Kiwis call them), these suits are being blamed for toppling a host of world records in the past eight weeks - 36 as of Sunday - by swimmers wearing the high-tech LZR Racer bodysuit.

Speedo says the LZR aids streamlining and reduces skin vibration and muscle oscillation, but critics say use of the suit is tantamount to "technological doping" and should never have been approved.

Of course, every non-Speedo-sponsored competitive swimmer is panicking, wondering whether to ditch their own lucrative suit contracts and buy their own LZR.

But Croatia's Duje Draganja, the world's fastest man in water (and who wears a LZR), harks back to our own paddler vs. boat debate: "It's a great commercial - it's good, but not that good," he said. "Fast swimmers are fast swimmers. That will always be the case, suit or no suit."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sinking of the Wahine

It's the 40th anniversary of New Zealand's worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the inter-island ferry the Wahine, on April 10, 1968. I was only six at the time, but I still remember the news. And the photos taken then have been firmly engrained in most Kiwis' consciousness.

Since most Kiwis are only separated by two or three degrees of separation, we probably also knew someone who had been on the ferry that fateful day - the mother of an old friend of mine when I lived in Christchurch was one.

The weather was pretty much to blame - one of those perfect storms. And of the 734 men, women and children aboard, 53 lost their lives. Many of those who died were in the first lifeboat away, which swamped soon after launching.

What is interesting, is that only recently have Kiwis started talking about the disaster. As the New Zealand Herald's editorial stated, "They were undoubtedly encouraged in this by attitudes pervading New Zealand society 40 years ago. This was not a time for what might be thought unnecessary fuss. Survivors were given a cup of tea and sent home. In most cases, there was no talk of compensation. No Government medals for heroism were awarded. The message was to get on with life....

"The answer may lie in a further change emanating, in part, from the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre. The survivors were encouraged to express their feelings. The firefighters who perished were lionised. In the midst of disaster, America looked for and found heroes.

"New Zealand is also paying ever more heed to its own heroes. The thousands who queued for hours to pay their last respects to Sir Edmund Hillary attest to that. So do the increasing attendances at Anzac Day commemorations. We have, as a society, become more sentimental."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bless what bites

Who would have known that those toothy ribbed critters we gingerly paddle past each year during the Everglades Challenge would now have such powers of benefit?

Now it appear that someday, an alligator might save your life.

Researchers in Louisiana say they've discovered unique antibiotic proteins in the blood of American alligators that can kill a wide range of deadly bacteria, halt the spread of common infections, and perhaps even stop HIV, which causes AIDS.

If they're right, and they're able to sequence the genetics of 'gator blood, the researchers say superdrugs based on their findings might be available within 10 years.

So far, the researchers say they've determined that the proteins found in alligator blood can fight 23 different types of bacteria, nearly three times as many as the proteins found in human blood.
At least in lab experiments, proteins extracted from 'gator blood destroyed the bacteria behind deadly staph infections, different fungi behind yeast infections, and in at least one study, most of a sample of HIV.

Apparently, alligators have developed unique immune systems during the course of their long evolution. Unlike us mere mortals, their immune systems can fight off different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi without having been previously exposed to them.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Something hidden...

After my ACGA conference finished for the evening, I jumped in a taxi to another meeting, at the Union League Club of Chicago. Being a jolly foreigner, I'd never heard of the club and its background. But for more than 125 years, the Club has been the place in Chicago where people have gathered to lay the groundwork for various civic projects and organize social and philanthropic undertakings.

We walked up to the fifth floor to find a quiet lounge to discuss our business, and as I walked the marble stairs, I marvelled and drooled at the most amazing art on every single wall. Who knew that such a treasure trove existed!

And there, tucked away on one wall, was a Monet.

Today, the Union League Club of Chicago is recognized as having one of the most important privately held art collections in the region, with more than 750 works of art, including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative arts – with particular strength in Midwestern artists.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Something different...

So here I am in Chicago, until Friday, at this year's ACGA conference. There's a jolly great lake outside my hotel window, and a couple of eights training up one of the "canals." Not a cloud in the sky, and really quite charming for my first visit to the world's 25th largest city.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Down the Yukon, with a paddle

But which one? The paddle debate will probably never be fully resolved. And it’s something that Dawn and I are certainly having to mull over regarding the 2009 Yukon 1000.

We’re both committed Greenland paddlers, and both use a Lumpy Paddle. But will using a GP – even potentially a carbon fiber GP – make us competitive enough? Should we, therefore, be retraining ourselves to use a wing paddle? The probability is that anyone else entered in the kayak class, either K1 or K2, will be using wings.

Does using a GP not make paddlers competitive enough? I’d be loathe to think so. I finished first in my class in this year’s Everglades Challenge using a GP - and knocked 22 hours off my time from last year - and was the only kayaker solely paddling with a GP.

We have both resolved that we will not be leaving our GPs at home. Whatever paddle we end up using will definitely be supplemented by the GP, to help ease any possible physical strain.

Thoughts would be appreciated!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Yukon 1000: Gear, gear, which bit of gear...

Like anything to do with boats, half the fun is the preparation and planning. And that's just what Dawn and I are finding with the upcoming 2009 Yukon 1000.

As well as finding sponsors for the race. First up, is that Macpac, NZ's leading outdoors brand, is on board. We'll be using their Apollo free-standing tents (free-standing being obligatory), as well as their Sanctuary 900 down sleeping bags.

If you're a regular peruser of this blog, you'll probably have figured that I'm a great fan of Macpac, having used their equipment since 1982, on all my backpacking, climbing and kayaking expeditions and trips. I can't wax enough about this gear.More updates to follow!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Be careful who you go to sea with...

We hear stories via our blogs of paddling trips that don't go so well. Well, here's a real life sea mutiny, in New Zealand, of all places.

The New Zealand Herald reports, that Nelson (where my brother Rob lives) accountant Bill Heritage (photo above) said he was forced to abandon his 7.9m sloop Air Apparent about 90 nautical miles west of the Kaipara Harbour on Wednesday when his inexperienced crew ignored his orders and set off the yacht's emergency locator beacon.

However, one of Mr Heritage's crew said the boat was inadequately prepared for the journey they would not pay for its loss unless ordered to by a court.

All four were air-lifted off the yacht by an emergency services helicopter and flown back to Auckland. Mr Heritage could not stay on board alone because it was too dangerous.

The Compass 790 yacht was left floating and a navigation warning was issued to shipping by Maritime New Zealand.

The maritime rescue involved two helicopters and cost more than NZ$20,000. The crew's admitted they mutinied as they feared for their lives when the engine, sails, drogue and instrumentation packed up on them.

How to lose good friendships...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2009 Yukon 1000 #2

Well, SandyBottom and I are into the planning for next year's inaugural 2009 Yukon 1000 Canoe and Kayak Race. That means, I've started a spreadsheet to list expenses (ouch), looked up what charts we'll need, checked that flights do indeed go to Whitehorse, and are actively looking for a boat.

Initially we had high hopes to use a
Kruger Cruiser, but it seems the race rules don't allow that boat in the canoe class, using single blades with a rudder. We can enter the Cruiser as a "kayak", but that means double blades and no rudder. This has started an interesting discussion on WaterTribe's discussion forum, and it's nice to see race organizer Peter Coates contributing, as well as Mr. Kruger himself, Mark Przedwojewski, aka ManitouCruiser.

So, if anyone has any good ideas on a suitable tandem for this great adventure (minimum beam of 26"), we'd be open to suggestions!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2009 Yukon 1000

Well, here’s a new race of interest, and now the longest of its kind. Not only has the inaugural 2009 Yukon 1000 Canoe and Kayak Race recently been advertised, but mandatory equipment includes carrying a SPOT. In fact, the race's organization is based around SPOT.

Because the 1600km race is unsupported, paddling down the Yukon River from Whitehorse, Yukon across the US/Canada border and on to the Dalton Highway Bridge North of Fairbanks, Alaska, officials are relying on competitors sending two SPOT OK messages a day to confirm their positions – before 2130 to confirm that you’re off the water and camped, and again at 0530 the next day from the same position to confirm you’ve rested at your campsite the entire night. And then another SPOT OK message every six hours while paddling. Otherwise you’re disqualified.

The official starting date of the 2009 Yukon 1000 Race will be Monday July 20, 2009 at 1100, at Rotary Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Solo kayakers are allowed, but for safety reasons you have to travel with another solo kayaker to make up a team. And you have until August 3 to finish the race.

Unfortunately for me, but perhaps fortunately for FliesWithKiwiBird, at least one member from each team must have completed the Yukon River Quest to be eligible to enter the race. I e-mailed race organizer, Peter Coates, to see if he could open entries up to WaterTribe. And he responded quite smartly: “You know that is not a bad idea. On the other hand, we have had people completely loose it on the River Quest because of how Big and Empty the river is, and the Flats are much Bigger and Emptier. There are only about 1000 people living along the river from Dawson to the highway bridge, 600 miles. And we want to be confident people know how to pack for an expedition in the Arctic.”

But he did say that they’re relaxing the Yukon River Quest prerequisite for the first year. “Pretend the rules say ‘or equivalent racing and wilderness experience’.” And Peter’s happy to review your experience with you, as he did with me.

And another point quite interesting is that FliesWithKiwiBird says I can do the race, if SandyBottom makes up a team with me. I can see us in a Kruger...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Remember the WASP of WWII

Laura Jane Cunningham, WASP
"This is not a time when women should be patient.
We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability
every weapon possible. WOMEN PILOTS,
in this particular case,

are a weapon waiting to be used."

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942

March is Women's History Month.

From my couple of years working for Sally Ride, the WASP have become living deities in my mind. Representing Sally's company, Sally Ride Science, at the annual Women in Aviation International conferences, I was lucky enough to meet a few of the surviving WASP. All the most amazing women of their generation.

During World War II, a select group of young women pilots became pioneers, heroes and role models. They were the
Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft.

Their stories are amazing. And every now and then, by pure coincidence and via the wonderful world of the Internet, I have the chance of meeting another WASP, whether it be virtually or in the flesh.

One of my favorite stories is that of Bucky Richards and the case of the missing trunk. You can read that story courtesy of BubbaGirl.

But just the other day another WASP came to light. I happened to be e-mailing Sea Kayaker magazine’s editor Chris Cunningham on an article I was writing for the magazine, when he mentioned his mother had been a WWII pilot. I asked Chris whether she was a WASP, and he was surprised that I had heard of them.

Chris’ mum was Lora Jane Harris (nee Cunningham). Lora Jane trained in Sweetwater, Texas. She flew the Stearman trainer, got her multi-engine licence and flew a B-17. She was in one of the last groups training toward the end of the war. When the WASP were disbanded she joined the Red Cross and went to the Marshall Islands.

Chris wrote me, “Of course as a boy the coolest thing was the time she got in the tail gun of a B-17 and shot at rabbits in the desert. (At least that's what I remember.) She also told of going out on the runway when it was blowing hard enough to bring landing planes almost to a standstill while airborne. The WASP would grab the wings and pull the plane down out of the air. Her buddy Velta Benz was too short to qualify for the WASP, so she hung upside down from a tree and actually got an inch and a half taller, tall enough to get in.”

Chris also recommended watching the History Channel and its program on the history of beverages. “On the popularization of coffee during WWII, they have a shot of a babe serving coffee in a mess hall in the South Pacific. The babe turned out to be mom. My little sister happened to be watching the program and about fell off her chair. Her best known customer on that gig was Tyrone Power.”

Sadly, the WASP are slowly passing away, Chris’ mum being one of them. But we should never forget.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Florida Keys: a first

What does a tired kayaker and her family do once everyone's scarpered 2008's Everglades Challenge? Explore the Keys! Off we headed for three days, basing ourselves in the Bay View Inn Motel, in Conch Key, right on the waterfront on the Bay side. A marina finger was being upgraded right outside our front porch, which the WeeOne and I watched each morning with interest.

First off was feeding the tarpon at Robbie's Marina, on Islamorada. Only for the brave, who don't mind the risk of losing a finger or three! For just a few dina you get a small pail of herring to feed these massive hungry fish. First, you think there aren't enough fish in that wee pail - don't worry, you'll soon change your mind, that there's just enough, or perhaps one or two more than necessary. And if it ain't the fish that get the herring, watch out for the pelicans! This was so much fun.

Then an explore and walk around Bahia Honda State Park. Rated one of the top beaches, we'd have to agree - not a big beach, but beautiful all the same.

And I have always wanted to drive over Seven Mile Bridge!

Our day in Key West was one of rain, but braving the elements we wandered around quite happily. Enjoying a drink on the waterfront, old ships atied beside us, with some great live music, made up for the soggy streets.

In fact the weather wasn't the best for most of the trip, cancelling snorkelling trips and glass-bottomed tour boats; but who cares when you can still wander around wearing shorts, knowing that way up north, snow's afalling!