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

Monday, April 6, 2009

Everglades Challenge race report: Day 6

Day 6: Broad River to CP3 Flamingo

Not an early start, and the tide way out. SandyBottom took the mud route off the camp site, as above; KneadingWater and I launched from the ramp, mud free.

Less than a mile or so from the entrance to Broad River we headed further and further off the coast, the water getting no shallower the further off we paddled. We decided it would be quicker to walk the boats. Thus with KW with a towline around his waist, off we sauntered to find the deeper water to renter the Wilderness Waterway at Harney River, exploring the bottom life in all of four to six inches of water.

Photos: Walking the boats; Harney River entrance somewhere over there...

Up the Harney, tide and wind were against us… A dolphin followed me for a while; another played off my bow for some time. On we paddled, slowly making headway on the chart. Making a hard right around the bend into Shark River, the tide was still furiously coming in, but what we thought would be the wind with us and perhaps even a chance to raise a sail, did a 180 degree shift and was now against us…

At least we caught the last hour or so of the tide coming in via Shark River as it enters
Whitewater Bay – the homeward stretch, albeit a few good miles yet, to Flamingo and CP3.

With a strong headwind, we paddled over to the west of Whitewater Bay for Joe River to try and find some shelter from the winds. A new route for me, but no respite against the full-on wind. KW went ahead, and SB was somewhere astern. (She also ended up coming down Joe River.)

With the full moon a couple of nights back, the moon was slow to rise in the dark, and with no GPS, I just followed the less dark headland to the next less dark headland to find the entrance to Coot Bay. My rear white passage light was abuzz with noisy blood-hungry mosquitoes.

Finally, around 2210 hours, and over 273 miles later (440km), I rounded the last wee bend of the long narrow Flamingo Cut to find KW and Lugnut and Wingnut ready to help portage the boat over to the Florida Bay side of Flamingo. Very much appreciated help, having done all this by myself last year. But sadly—nay, devastatingly—the shop was closed—no ice cream yet this race, nor Flamingo’s delicious micro-waved hamburgers (I kid you not)!

Finding DrKayak, SandDollar, StripBuilder
bivvied aside their boats, with Pelican and Egret under the large tree aside the pontoons (they had all taken the outside route, including the Cape, missing the Wilderness Waterway), KW and I found our traditional stealth camp site overlooking Florida Bay, and bunked down for a few hours rest (he sleeps; I “rest”).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Everglades Challenge race report: Day 5

Day 5: Darwin’s Place to Broad River campsite

I was awake for some time last night—a burning, itching sensation on the back of my hands near driving me to screaming. It may have been a reaction against the thin neoprene sun paws I wear on my hands, which I love, to protect the back of my hands against the sun, yet keeping my palms clear. I decided not to wear them for the rest of the race, instead using liberal dobs of sun screen. Thankfully, no more discomfort for the rest of the race.

We were off as dawn broke.

The Wilderness Waterway is a 30-mile (48km) complex river system of narrow channels joining often very large almost lake-like bays. I fear for an explorer’s sanity puttering around without a good chart.

A few four-footer alligators swam lazily past. In one bay a couple of fisher folk were playing a very, very large jumping silvery fish. KW asked what it was—a tarpon—the first time I’ve seen one and also explaining many of the late night very large splashes we
experience as we paddle along.

Every day we’d seen dolphins, many playing along with us, and today was no exception.

Around a bend, ThereAndBackAgain, heading the wrong direction—north—came acharging (with the tide and Pacific Action Sail up), to check on who was paddling this year—he taking a break from the festivities.

Readers of this blog’s coverage of my first 2007 EC may remember the saga of when SandyBottom and I “lost” KneadingWater and feared him drowned, all over miscommunication of routes we were taking. I still shake my head in amazement, that he and I (SB some time behind) made near enough the same mistake again, in exactly the same position. But this time the radios did work, and apparently I sounded quite cutting when advising him, “Don’t move!”

From the bay south of Big Lostmans Bay we cut west down Rogers River, and then south down the aptly named The Cutoff, to meet Broad River, the tide and wind full force against us. With a few hours of painful westward progress, we finally made Broad River groundsite for a late lunch break—probably around 1430 hours.

Photo: We’re stopping this early?!

With the tide thankfully in, it was an easy disembark, just running our boats up the slatted boat ramp—a very handy 30-or-so inches wide, yet fairly slippery. Lunch turned into afternoon tea…, which turned into cocktails…, all taken dangling our feet over the dock, watching the tide drop in volume, but still running against anyone paddling out—we couldn’t quite figure that one out.

It didn’t take too much persuasion for me to convince KW that this would be the perfect place for the night, as long as anyone else didn’t come and claim their booked site. And a few hours later, up arrived SB, just in time for additional cocktails and a gourmet dinner. Nearing dusk, my mosquito headnet offered full passing access for those dastardly no-see-ums, the material not being fine enough. Well bitten, we repaired to our abodes pre-dark, around 2000. Terribly embarrassing for such hardy racers…

Photo: Settling down for the evening at Broad River. KW standing on the boat ramp.