Monday, September 28, 2009

Inaugural NCC2009

Just returned from the inaugural WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge--more to come on that.

I didn't padde, though took all the gear, just in case. Still getting over a rather bad cold and didn't want to make it worse. Hard move.

But the photo above, taken by Doug-from-just-up-the-road sums up the true WaterTribe spirit. It took JarHead 90 minutes to get off the beach at the race start, but Marines *never* give up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nearly on the road again...

Nearly a year ago, we bought a 1970 Shasta Compact--FliesWithKiwiBird decided that she'd be happy to go on kayaking trips and the like, if she didn't have to wait from a small stuffy tent.

We bought the wee Shasta, complete with original wings (there's an entire new language in this community), from a chap in Greensboro, who very kindly delivered it for us. Yesterday, after Doug up the road had replaced the wheel bearings, I took it for its first spin, with the WeeOne fast asleep in the back seat. Doug followed from behind, taking the photo and checking out for alignment, tracking and the like. Happily to report, it was a dream to tow and everything looked just fine from the rear.

I've managed to get a bit of work done on the trailer, or caravan as we would say in NZ, but there's still quite a bit to do to get it "just right." The inside walls and ceiling had been painted with cream non-skid deck paint (we don't throw those kind of parties), which skinned one alive as one reclined. So I lined everything with a 2-3mm foam-type tan liner you'd see in plush cars--what a difference that makes, plus a huge scrub down everywhere else.

We threw out the old pretty rank squabs and bought new 4" foam--can't believe how much that stuff costs! We've covered those with sewn sheets to start with, until FliesWithKiwiBird finds the time to sew the real covers with the fabulous fabric we have hiding in a wardrobe. But the new curtains do need to be ready by Wednesday, as we're off to Cedar Island, out on North Carolina's Pamlico Sound, for the inaugural WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge 2009 (NCC2009).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Search on for Amundsen

Veteran Kiwi expedition leader Rob McCallum is leading a team to find the submerged plane of famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (above). Amundsen was aboard a Latham 47 flying boat (below) when the aircraft disappeared over the sea on its way to the Arctic island of Spitsbergen in 1928.

On 18 June 1928, Amundsen joined a rescue operation to save another competitor, the Italian aviator Umberto Nobile. Nobile had crashed his airship Italia on a return voyage from the North Pole, and he and his surviving crew members found themselves drifting helplessly on pack ice. Amundsen boarded a Latham 47 flying boat along with a team of French Air Force pilots to try to reach them.

McCallum and his team reckon the Latham 47 should have been about 19 nautical miles south of Bear Island when the plane's last radio message was picked up at 1845 on 18 June. Using an underwater robot, the equipment can get down to 20cm resolution on the sea bed. And it'll have to be precise as all that's probably left of the plywood-built plane is its engines.

More here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It was a dangerous situation...

If I could only say that it happened as I was descending a three-metre swell while a few kms offshore competing in the inaugural around New Zealand kayak race; or fighting off a 30-kilo possum terrorizing the local neighbourhood.

Sigh. You know how tough it is trying to fit that last corner of the fitted sheet, when you're stretching it over and down? Well, it's not only tough but down right dangerous! Dang thing sprang back at me, and... well, you can see for yourself the damage inflicted.

A mallet finger--but in the technical sense, the extensor tendon's been separated from the muscles keeping that wee tip functional. I have a droop a Viagra ad agency would love to get their hands on.

I see a Duke orthopaedic surgeon on Thursday, but after heading directly to urgent care straight after the... accident, with three x-rays to show for my plight, it looks as though I'm wearing a splint full time for six weeks, and just at night for another six weeks.

At least the 24 hours of some agony has passed by in an ibrubrofen-induced haze, and no pain felt at all now. I'm hoping that's a good sign.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Spare me...

Entirely unrelated to kayaking, but somewhat with the great outdoors and everything "Kiwi-like", I can't resist revealing this fabulous air safety video from Air New Zealand cabin crew.

Thanks to Dana for bringing it to my attention.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spare the blood

Day 3 of this year's WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, just off the coast near Wiggins Pass, I unclipped from my PFD my beautifully sharp (and expensive!) non-rusted (at all!) two-year-old Boye Pointed Tip knife (as above) to slice off a length of waterproof tape to relieve a hot spot on my palm. As I finished the effortless slice (how I loved that knife)--too effortlessly--it flew from my hands and spiralled down into the unseen depths below. For the rest of the EC I used either my teeth or borrowed SandyBottom's or KneadingWater's rusty, blunt PFD knives.

I was devastated by my loss. I really liked that (expensive!) knife.

After a suitable period of mourning, only now have I started the search for a new knife. Which got me thinking about doing a little more research into the intricacies of "the best" PFD-attached kayak knife, because, as we all know, research is half the fun of the purchase, particularly with anything related to water use.

First up is the debate on whether to wear a jolly knife on your PFD or not, which apparently is as heated as to whether to have a rudder on your kayak or not. Having been sold many moons ago on the "yes, I will wear one because it is a huge safety resource" side of the debate, I spent less time on the whys-and-wherefores. But, if you are still wondering yourself, Trevor Gardner of the NSW Sea Kayak Club has written an excellent article, The PFD Knife: Don't leave home without it. He left me with this salutory reminder:

"... it really doesn't matter what knife is on your PFD as long there is a knife on your PFD. A good quality knife is one of the most important survival tools you can carry. However, if you can't locate your knife when upside down with your eyes closed then it's no longer a survival tool, it's ballast."

After having reconvinced myself that I do need a knife on my PFD, I was now left with the question, which knife should I replace my beloved Boye with. The Boye was a folding knife, and I must admit, it wasn't easy to open with one hand, which can be pretty necessary in a dodgy situation. In this respect, I'm now convinced I should carry a fixed blade that I can pull down from its sheath and is ready for action in one sweep.

And I'm also moving from the pointed blade to the blunt tip--for obvious reasons--as well as adding a serration or two.

I contemplated tying the dang knife on to my PDF so it couldn't fall overboard, but running through various rescue scenarios in my mind nixed that idea--all one needs is another jolly line floating around while upside down.

And I don't want a knife in the $100 range or above, just in case I do lose it overboard again. But I don't want something that's going to rust with just a season or two of use. I found that the two factors--price vs. rustability--tend to be linked.

Let me warn you now, you can spend hours Internet-researching for the perfect (cheaper) PFD knife. But what I believe I'll now end up with is the Gerber River Shorty (as below). It's medium-carbon stainless steel, which isn't as robust as Boye's dendritic cobalt, but for around $30, I should be set.

Comments welcomed!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hail, anyone?

New Zealand's been hammered over the last few days with water spouts, tornadoes and hail--in some cases, 10cm of hail!

Above is a shot of my cousin Helen's son, Mark, on Papamoa Beach (just south of Mount Maunganui, east coast of the North Island), surfing on a bed of hail. We grew up near here in Tauranga, and only once remember something similar as kiddies, many moons ago.

You can find more hail photos from around the country, here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The big 2

The WeeOne turned two last Sunday.

Where did it go?

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The secret project

While FliesWithKiwiBird was away with the WeeOne in San Diego a few weeks ago, I had ten days unfettered time to complete "the secret project"—a fence and gate across the side front of the house to keep the two-and four-legged critters inside the property bounds.

About where David took this photo used to run a stretch of chicken wire and failing wire gate that we'd inherited from the previous owners, so it's only taken me... nearly four years to get this built.

I'm especially proud of the gate—cedar on cedar, built from scratch. I used merge plates to bind the joins—hidden by the cedar planks on the other side—with three black hinges on the other side. I tried to make it look a bit like a barn door, as barns are one of the WeeOne's favourite structures (and one of his first words).

We particularly like the brick path, only found a year or so ago when I starrted digging around, hidden under a good 10cm of years-collected detrius.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Now you can glow, too

In a previous post I chatted about a new product called Glowfast Luminous Sail Tape and how useful this tape would be on my Pacific Action Sail when paddle/sailing at night.

The company's based in Oz, and Jason from Glowfast e-mailed me, writing that he'd break up a 40mm roll for me, as all I'd need would be about four metres.

Jason's happy to give this short-ordering system a go, so if you too would like to order less than a full roll of 25 metres, you can e-mail him at, and easily pay via PayPal (whether you have a PayPal account or not).

I look forward to testing the tape out when it arrives from my near-neck of the woods!

Friday, May 1, 2009

A grand wee adventure: part III

SandyBottom and I had planned a three-day, 100-mile (160km) sea kayak trip to scout for our September WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge. Using Top Spot chart N239, this is our story…

Dawn’s cough woke me, to a still morning—the wind had finally died—and a red ball was peeking above the Outer Banks, too low to fully see in the distance. But we could hear… the humming of a thousand—possibly more—mosquitoes, inside our tent flys and out—starving for blood—as big as sparrows. And I am not exaggerating. (North Carolina Challenge 2009 contestants: be warned!)

I dressed in my evening fully covering clothes and did all my packing, etc business inside the tent (thankgoodness for WagBags). Unzipped the inner at the last moment, threw everything out, donned headnet, threw down the damp tent, and furiously packed our boats. If I stood still for long enough, my cream socks turned black. I knew there were mozzies still inside my tent, and inside my hatches when I closed them tight—I did not care.

Finally braving the beasts to throw off morning clothes, we speedily donned paddling clothes and pushed off the beach, still wearing our headnets. (The next day Dawn e-mailed me at work to report she’d counted 300 bites all over her body—I had much fewer, but where I had been bitten turned into large red lumps.)

Homeward bound we paddled, past Rumley Bay and Lola Point, tucking around Cedar Island Point. The WSW slowly kicked in, and with our sails up we made good progress.

We discussed a note to take photos to warn fellow NCC contestants, particularly in the bigger boats, to stick to the marked channels, as the fish net stakes are common around the coast here, sometimes stretching a hundred metres and more from the shore, offering a dangerous addition to nighttime travel.

We’d had plans to end the NCC inside Cedar Island Bay with the finish line right in front of the Driftwood campground at a small boat ramp there. But with the tide down and the difficulty of finding a channel even with the tide in, we’ve decided to have everyone finish right where we started, outside on Pamlico Sound. And if the weather’s really hammering the Sound, folks can make the decision to finish inside; where we did, just a couple of hours after leaving the newly named, Blood-Letting Point.

Freshly showered and changed, we drove home via Beaufort for one of El’s shrimp burgers with all the works—a fitting end to a grand wee adventure!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A grand wee adventure: part II

SandyBottom and I had planned a three-day, 100-mile (160km) sea kayak trip to scout for our September WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge (NCC). Using Top Spot chart N239, this is our story, part II…

The sun was just rising as we quickly packed and headed off, paddling across the current, through the Newport Marshes, to the T-junction where the IntraCoastal Waterway meets the channel into Beaufort. Near 0800 we passed aside Beaufort’s drawbridge—being raised at just that time for a couple of large launches—and made our way around the point and into Taylors Creek—with the current.

It’s always a fun time paddling past the Beaufort marine front, with the maritime boat shed, marinas typically full of craft of all sizes and budgets, and someone to wave and say hello.

We pulled into Graden Paul Park, which will be CheckPoint 1 for September’s North Carolina Challenge—a very nice sandy beach for the kayaks, and a solid jetty for the larger boats. It’s a two minute—if that—walk to the nearest café, water and, I remembered, our favourite weekend breakfast brunch, which we took advantage of! Very civilized—though we made sure to sit on the terrace adjoining the marina, upwind of other diners.

Filling the bladders with another few litres of water, off we headed, nearly salivating with delight with the day's anticipated tail winds—how often does that happen?!

Out from Taylors Creek we decided to stay on the outside of Harkers Island to fully take advantage of the sou-wester, blowing a very nice 5-10 knots. Pacific Action Sails up for the broad reach, we ambled past the houses of Harkers, checking out the real estate. Needing a pit stop, we pulled into the Rangers Station at the far end of the island, momentarily confused by the new rip rap wall that now bars you from the entire beach, but offers a wee sheltered inlet to paddle in and make shore.

Around the tip of Harkers it’s a hard left on a NNE heading, right back up the inner coast of Core Sound toward Cedar Island.

The mantras for the rest of the day, as the winds slowly increased, soon became, from me, “Dawn, you need a rudder”, and from Dawn, “Kristen, I sure do need a rudder”. Relishing the conditions as the wind soon reached 20-22 knots over the afternoon, with the sail up I constantly cruised around 5-6 knots not even paddling, with a regular top speed of 9 knots. But with Core Sound’s shallow waters of just a metre or two off channel, the wind-pushed water can pick up a metre or so breaking chop pretty quickly. And without a rudder to take the pressure off keeping on course, SandyBottom didn’t have it as easy, we finally taking the sails down and completing the day the old-fashioned way.

Around 1600 we decided to call it quits—primarily because we didn’t want the trip to end too soon—Cedar Island and the finish were only a few hours away, and surely that could wait ‘til morning.

We pulled up at a sandy wind-swept point, lost my hat and spent some very tiring minutes against the wind retrieving it, dragged the boats up into the grasses out of sight, put up tents and changed—and very relaxingly lazed around chatting, waiting for dinner hour, accompanied with a few sips of Glenfiddich.

It was still quite daylight when we repaired to our tents, each watching the Sound slowly calm as the wind died—though it continued to buffet our tents well into the early hours. And for 12 or so hours, we slept like logs…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A grand wee adventure: part 1

SandyBottom and I had planned a three-day, 100-mile (160km) sea kayak trip to scout for our September WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge (NCC). Using Top Spot chart N239, this is our story…

After a comfy night camping at Cedar Island’s Driftwood campground, the boats were packed, prepped and ready for action ten minutes before the 0730 ferry departed beside us. Not a breath of wind, after a very gusty night—and it remained that way for the first four to five hours—absolutely still.

Our first ten miles (16kms)—on a course of 300 degrees—took us to the northern end of Raccoon Island, a bombing range for the military, complete with an abandoned super hull in the middle of an inner bay, sadly awaiting its purpose as target practise. Tucking around the point, but far off enough to skirt the restricted zone, we entered the Neuse River. From here on all new territory for me—I hadn’t appreciated what an expanse of water there is in this area to play about in and explore.

By the time we crossed the entrance to South River, tell-tale signs of impending wind on the water promised a bit more action. A 20 minute break for a late lunch on a sandy point on the nor-eastern head of the IntraCoastal Waterway signalled the start of the headwinds we were to experience for the rest of the day—a good 10-15 knots in all.

We hugged the coast from the ICW to the mouth of Clubfoot Creek, and along the banks of the creek, trying to find some shelter—not much luck. Though with finally entering the Harlowe Canal—narrow and heavily treelined—we could finally rest, particularly with the 1-2 knot current helping us along.

The Harlowe Canal is truly a work of wonder—narrow and surprisingly deep enough—with three bridges to pass under. The sailing boats in the NCC will definitely have to dismast and paddle most of the Canal, but it will not only give them time to enjoy the vista, but also level out the playing field somewhat for the kayakers.

Once the tree line cut away back to reeds, the wind hit us again. We began looking for possible campsites, and have two new gouges on my hull to attest to the numerous hidden oyster beds along the banks of the Canal as we neared the Newport River.

The sun nearly down we stormed across the Newport in a stiff headwind and harbour chop to find some shelter on the southern side of the river, to now look in earnest for somewhere to lay our heads.

At 45 miles (72.5kms) a lone jetty stuck out, and we checked for a possible site above that. Clear grass, and a wee bit trepidly we dragged/carried my boat up and over the concrete block rip rap, and laid SB’s on the dock. Tents up, changed, a hot meal in our bellies, and we hit the sack.

Around 0200 we awoke to a commotiion on the water—a motor straining against the mud that trapped it, and two folks yelling in language that can’t be printed here—trying to find their put in—all obviously oiled with beer. After a hour or so of constant barraging one another and the woman screaming that “Joe’s not happy with you”, they docked at the end of our jetty, which turned out to be “home” for the boat.

I got dressed and out of my tent to see if any help was needed—with the language still flying and commotion continuing in trying to clear the boat away, I was just about back in my tent when a truck pulled up the driveway, its headlights illuminating our boats. We’d been rumbled. I immediately went over to the truck, introduced myself to Joe and apologized for camping on what was obviously private property. No trouble, said a very weary Joe, it’s my uncle’s property and he’s now living way down the road. But that’s my soon-to-be-ex-wife you can hear, and they seem to have ruined my very expensive boat.

On seeing her soon-to-be-ex-husband arrive, the soon-to-be-ex-wife stumbled up the jetty, and immediately tripped over my very well carlights-lit kayak. Joe sighed another sigh of deep weariness, and soothingly put her up in the cab of the truck, told her to stay there and went to assess the damage to his boat. Seeing that I was no longer needed, I bid my farewell and repaired to my tent. They all left within minutes. We slept…

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Watch me glow

Always love a new cool product, and this has to be one of them—Glowfast Luminous Sail Tape—an Aussie company. Just stick the sail tape on your sails, and with as little as 10 minutes exposure to light, the tape will glow for up to 20+ hours. And then it’ll automatically recharge the next time the tape’s exposed to light; and it can even be recharged by torch light.

Seems quite an excellent way to see your sails’ shapes while travelling at night.

I just may have to get some of this for my Pacific Action Sail. I’ve found when paddling/sailing at night, particularly when the moon’s either not very bright or not there at all, it can be a bit discomforting not being able to see the sail’s angle when I can feel it quite well across my face from where it’s coming.
Particularly when it’s also raining…

For the height of my sail from the water, the company recommends 30-44mm tape.

US$169.50 for 30mm x 25m (1.18in x 82ft), which is a lot of tape—I probably only need a meter or two. Perhaps we need a community sail tape pot here?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh, for the weekends

While FliesWithKiwiBird and the WeeOne are away in San Diego for ten days, I've been busy on a surprise "big project", which I started Saturday and just finished early this morning while the first cuppa of the day was brewing. More on that next week, as FWKB may just be reading this blog.

But the great thing is that I now have a clear conscience to head off Thursday night with SandyBottom, to paddle the 160km (100 mile) route we have planned for September's WaterTribe event, the inaugural North Carolina Challenge 2009.

We plan to leave Cedar Island, where the ferry heads off to Ocracoke, Friday morning, after camping the night at Driftwood, right there, and heading off anti-clockwise completing the circuit via the Neuse River, Harlow Canal, down to Beaufort and up on either the inside or out of Harkers Island to paddle up again to the start.

The camera is in San Diego, so I'm hoping Dawn remembers hers!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blog advice

Hello folks,

I was hoping someone "out there" may be able to help me. You'll see from my latest entries that for some reason my hyper links are underlined and dark purple or dark blue, and I can't seem to change that.

Nothing I've played with on >Layout>Fonts & Colors> seems to make any difference, or even >revert to template default>.

If anyone has any advice for me, I'd very much appreciate it!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another most ambitious journey

My brother Rob sent an e-mail off to Steve Gurney the other day, showing him the great use of SPOT during this year’s Everglades Challenge. Gurney wrote back the same day, “Spooky! Just picked up my new SPOT yesterday! Using it for a trip across Cook St and then an expedition across the Sahara. Looks cool!”

More on the Sahara trip later, but the Cook Strait trip is the next one to look out for. This month, Gurney and Steve Moffatt (of “A Most Ambitious Journey” fame) are re-enacting George and William Park’s crossing of Cook Strait in 1888, and making another inspirational documentary of it.

The Parks’ paddled and sailed from Mana Island to Nelson—via Picton and French Pass—over a two-week period. Moffatt will again paddle/sail Frankie, the Rob Roy copy they made of the Parks’ kayak for the Coast to Coast crossing, and once more use only old gear that his great, great uncles used from 1880; and for scientific/social contrast and commentary, Gurney will again use the latest he can invent and buy.

Gurney’s developing the kite kayaking he used on the Coast to Coast with a special sea kayak design from Grahame Sisson. “Back to the innovation shed,” Gurney writes!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A most ambitious journey by canoe

In late 1889 to early 1890, Kiwis George and James Park paddled and dragged two 40kg (80lb) Rob Roy canoes 330km, from New Zealand’s west coast to the east coast—Hokitika to Lyttelton—in 13 days, and then paddle-sailed down the coast to Christchurch.

In 2008, Kiwi mulit-sporters Steve Gurney and Steve Moffatt (the Park brothers were Moffatt’s great-great uncles) decided to retrace George and James’ trip, just to see who the real Coast to Coast legend was (Gurney well known for his championship wins on the famous Coast to Coast race).

The Steves decided that Moffatt would do the trip as his great-great uncles would have—in a replica Rob Roy, built just for the trip, and using the same resources available in those days, including the same clothing, equipment, sail and diet (roast beef sandwiches) his ancestors would have—no Goretex or neoprene in those days; while Gurney would use light, modern day clothing, equipment and food, including an inflatable kayak—and then compare what each journey was like.

The three videos making up the
excellent adventure are all accessible here.

Take away: “Learn the skills, and go out and have an adventure.”

Excerpt from a newspaper report of the original journey, Crossing the Main Divide
"They started from Hokitika on December 24th in two canoes, Mr G Park's being the Sunbeam and Mr J Park's the One-One, and experienced wet weather nearly all of the way through a most eventful voyage. They carted the craft to the Taramakau, and camped. On the next day, each towed his canoe with light lines up-river. The weather was squally, and great difficulty was experienced in getting up the rapids. That night they camped near the Otira in an old hut. On the following evening, they were in sight of the Hurunui saddle which is 3141 ft above sea level. Having been engaged in building trig stations in that area, Mr G Park knew some of the road, but beyond the saddle, neither had ever been before. After another day's toil, they reached the foot of the mountain, carried up their swags and camped on the summit. Another full day was spent bringing up their canoes, and by dinner time – namely, a late dinner hour –were placed on the headwaters of the Hurunui. All this work being very arduous in consequence of the rough nature of the country caused by the earthquakes of a year ago having torn up trees and caused large chasms to open."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Right boat for the job

Grahame Sisson, who designed and built my Arctic Raider kayak, recently sent me a couple of photos of Paul Caffyn and Conrad Edwards during their 2007, 691 mile (1,112 km) Greenland paddle from Isortoq down the SE coast of Grønland, to Prins Christian Sund, then westwards to Narsaq.

Grahame’s Nordkapp, a remodified version of Frank Goodman’s original Nordkapp (eg. pod seat, cockpit foredeck higher and a rudder), was used by Paul on his 1982 circumnavigation of Australia, and another around japan in 1985. It’s become Paul’s boat of choice, refined after every adventure.

What’s great about the two Nordkapps Paul and Conrad used in Greenland, is that these boats
snap-in-half with twelve bolts keeping them together. Only then could Paul and Conrad fly the boats to their put in.

Grahame wrote me, “Just as well I increased the keel rovings three times normal—they were ramming the ice flows at sprint speed to come ashore for a wee wee!!!!”

Paul’s written a bit about the trip in the August-September 2007 KASK journal (pp16-17), with a couple of great cover photos.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Everglades Challenge 2009: gear reflections

Gear: Only a few new additions to the collection this year, as reviewed for 2007 and 2008. First up, a new Greenland Paddle. Not that this was intentional. But when I saw StripBuilder’s beautiful hand-crafted one-of-three GPs the day before the race started, I just had to have it, there and then. And it did help—the slimmer loom and longer thinner paddles made for fewer pressure points and a very comfortable paddling experience.

And a new piece of safety equipment: Greatland Laser’s rescue laser flare Magnum. There are marketed as nighttime signaling devices visible up to 20 miles (32 km) away in optimal conditions, and effective in daytime up to three miles (4.8km). It’s not intended to replace but supplement the four small Orion Skyblazer rescue flares I carry in one of my PFD pockets, yet pragmatically appreciating that those Orions may just not work. I had it stored in a PFD pocket and attached via light parachute cord.

Once more my already-replaced Princeton Tec Apex LED Headlamp gave out on me—this time on day 2. I used my backup UK 3AAA Vizion headlamp, which was fine for detailed work around the boat or campsite—particularly the red bulb for nighttime chartwork—but not designed as a “spotligh
t” for spotting possible campsites from the boat. Thank goodness for this year’s full moon.

Food: My “energy-bar–of-the-year” choice this EC was Larabar – I’d had a few in my kitty last year and at the time thought them the tastiest of the lot. I’ve now come to the conclusion—three ECs later—that it doesn’t really matter what bar you have as your key energy choice, you tire of them by day 2, if not even by late afternoon day 1. But of the wide choice of Larabars that I did have, the banana flavour was my favourite (51gms, 220cals/924kj). And as I have found every year, Nature Valley’s Oats ‘N Honey crunchy granola bars (42gms, 180cals/756kj) never lose their appeal and, lo and behold, are far, far cheaper than any of the more heavily marketed energy bars (particularly when bought in bulk from Costco).

Lunch stop!

What I did find appealing this year was stopping for lunch and, thanks to the generosity of KneadingWater, dining on foil-packaged tuna wrapped in a tortilla with half a chopped up mini Babybel cheese. Not anticipating another racing mode EC as with 2008’s, for EC2010 I may well practice the civilized lessons learned from KW.

This year I also decided to take only two freeze-dried Mountain House meals (beef stroganoff and noodles (my favourite), 16oz/0.45kg, pro-pak vacuum pouch), as I didn’t use any at all last year. They were used as part of the communal dinners KneadingWater prepared, put together with contributions from SandyBottom and myself (I can see the cat’s out-of-the-bag that KW was this year’s chef-in-residence), though I wouldn’t have been able to eat a complete single-person serving. I also took a couple of foil-packaged salmon in oil, which we threw in with some of the freeze-
dried dinners. Once again, my stove was never used.

This year, for some reason, I truly appreciated the Clif gel shots I had with me (left over from last year and probably past their sell-by date), particularly paddling late into the evenings when I couldn’t stomach solids (energy bars) very well. At one very tired point I slurped one of my emergency Clif caffeine gel shots. I don’t drink coffee—haven’t for nigh on 12 years—so this gave me a fair headache, but energy-wise truly lit a fire in my cockpit when I needed that last wee push a few hard miles from bedding down for the night.

Leave No Trace: As with last year, I again packed Phillips’ WagBags—four this year—and I used three on the first three mornings where we camped “wild” and “stealth-like.” Subsequent mornings at groundsites/chickees along the Wilderness Waterway had their own PortaLoos, and there’s a public loo at Flamingo, which covers a regular person like me! I can’t encourage folks enough to use these when camping wild—or any similar system such as newspaper and a ziplock bag—it just doesn’t suffice nowadays to dig a cathole and perhaps take out just your loo paper.

Conclusions: All-in-all, it was a fairly “healthy” race for me—I didn’t wear (constantly wet) gloves at all this year, which I believe helped cancel any potential blister problemnone at all, in fact. Any pressure points were dealt with immediately with waterproof tape, which is how I dropped my beloved PFD knife overboard. As with last year but funnily not the year before, I did achieve an impressive case of “nappy rash,” or diaper rash as the Americans would phrase it. I’m going to have to give some thought to how to try and alleviate this problem. Certainly not as bad as last year’s, where it got infected, but uncomfortable for the first few days. (More to blog on this issue...)

I still don't really "sleep" with any consistency during the race
it can be a bit frustrating at times hearing those around you soundly asleepbut that doesn't seem to slow me down any during the race itself (just after). One trick I did learn that helped, particularly those camping around me, was to turn my deluctible Exped 7 down sleeping mat over the other way, which meant it's now so much quieter when I turn over.

And, of course, as FliesWithKiwiBird has repeatedly noticed, I’m pretty useless for the week after the race—it takes a good three to four days to get my landlegs back, and nearly a week or so to return to complete tigger levels.

But I’m signed up for next year…

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Everglades Challenge race report: Day 7

Day 7: CP3 Flamingo to the finish at Key Largo

Last night we’d agreed on a 0500 start to be off at 0600—KneadingWater wanted to buy some extra food bars to get him through the last day. At 0400, wide awake, I asked him if he was asleep. “I have extra food bars for you…” We were off.

Under the bivvy tree we found SandyBottom looking pretty tired. Everyone else, with Pelican and Egret just casting off, had left around 0200, trying to beat the 10-15-knot forecast easterlies—right on the nose, which had turned back a few paddlers the day before. We persuaded her to come with us, only if I promised to stay with her all day—I was more than happy to.

Out in the dark, some helpful moon showing up the distant keys, we paddled on, probably only doing around 2knots with the wind rising earlier than expected. We passed Pelican and Egret—Pelican peddling the 200 pound boat against the wind, and Egret paddling. Dawn rose before reaching Dump Key where we found KW doing just that.

With wind and chop against us—Greenland paddles are a boon in such conditions—keys slowly passed us by, as did the infamous Twisted Mile channel and Jimmy Channel. From Jimmy Channel we saw KW making a beeline for the mainland right ahead, still a few good miles ahead but obviously going for the lee of the shore. We thought to follow him, but appreciating the extra miles this would give us, we made for the very narrow two-posted “ditch” between Stake and Low Keys. Then tucking above and around Bottle Key we were back on our usual route to the finish.

It was a delight to see Roo and a few crew mates, including JarHead, coming out to meet us on Southern Skimmer. Through the narrow IntraCostal channel we paddled and slowly made our way around the point to the finish—our speed (or lack of) was commented upon after landing, but we were trying to figure out which dock was the finishing line—made at 1645 hours. I had a beer in hand (courtesy of CrazyRussian) as my boat was lifted from the water—with me in it.

Photo: CrazyRussian welcoming us home, with cold beers in hand

Photo: Signing in for the last time

Photo: The showered version, chatting with Pelican and NiteSong