Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gear list

They say that half's the battle's getting to the beach to compete in the Everglades Challenge. I've usually found that half the fun is packing. But it's been a wee bit more stressful than usual in the last week or so--our son has been diagnosed with a rare kidney disease--Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN)--which has no treatment. But he now seems to be on the mend. So we still hope to be leaving for Florida on Thursday, ready for race start on Saturday, March 3....

But on the hope that we will be heading down to Florida, I've finished packing. And for the first time, I've completed a gear list, with weights. I can't believe how much can fit in a 5.32m (17.5') kayak!

I've heard through the WaterTribe forum that with this warm winter we're experiencing that the mosquitoes are going to be bad this year, particularly in the Everglades. Thus another first is spraying my tent and some clothes with Permethrin. I'll be interested to see how that works.

The new Flat Earth 1sqm sail is all up and ready, but I won't have a chance to test it out before the race starts. That would be too easy.

Next wee hurdle: I have a colonoscopy on Monday....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sail work

Incredibly beautiful in North Carolina today--even had shorts and a T-shirt on this afternoon. And it's the middle of winter...

So perfect weather to finally get the new 1 sqm Flat Earth Sail rigged. David (Floatsome) came around to help. Thankfully, we only had to drill two new holes, for the eye strap for the mast's back stay and sheet pulley (below). Everything else I could use from my Pacific Action Sail.

I also swapped out the side strap units from the PAS's base, for the deck buttons that FES supplied (below)--and those will take the two side stays for the mast. You can watch a good video on how to use the deck buttons here. (That's also the red mast step you can see below.)

We couldn't set the whole rig up properly to view, as the glue has a few more hours/days to cure.

Hopefully I may have a chance to actually test the rig out on the water very soon. This year's Everglades Challenge starts March 3!

Monday, February 13, 2012

SPOT upgrade

After five years using the original SPOT (below), I've now upgraded to the new SPOT 2 (above).

It's definitely a worthwhile upgrade. I found a great deal online at Best Buy, even though it's the silver rather than the orange version (apparently, orange sells 10:1 over silver), but when you're saving around $70, silver's just dandy.

So, what's better? First, the weight. The new version weighs 147 gms (5.2 oz), while the old one is... quite a bit heavier. I'm carrying it on the deck of my kayak, so the weight doesn't really affect me overall, but if I was an ultralight backpacker, every gram makes a difference.

It's also much smaller, thus taking three (lithium) AAA batteries, rather than two AAs.

But what I really love about the new SPOT 2 is that you can have your Tracking on and still send an OK message at the same time, and this year's Everglades Challenge has a new rule that we need to send an OK every 4-6 hours (for insurance purposes).

With the old SPOT, it was a 20 minute process--try this at 0200 after you've been paddling for 18 or more hours...
You can't send an OK message if the tracking in enabled, and you can't go back to tracking mode immediately after pressing the "OK" button. To send an "OK" the user must first disable tracking mode. This is done by either restarting the device (off and then on) or by holding down the OK button for 3-5 seconds--in which case 3 blinking red LED and then a solid LED indicate tracking mode is turning off. Once tracking is deactivated (or the unit restarted), the device is in standby mode with only the power LED flashing. Now the user can press the button to send an "OK" message. It often takes 10 mins to transmit the okay message (in triplicate) and SPOT International recommends waiting 20 minutes. The SPOT device attempts to send the "OK" message 3 times: the first one usually is sent out during the first minute (you can tell because the OK LED goes solid for a few seconds). Once the three attempts have been transmitted, the second light stops blinking and the SPOT returns to standby mode. So, now with the unit back in standby with only the power light LED blinking, you know you can now activate tracking mode. Alternatively, to ensure that the "OK" was sent, the recommended method is to wait 20 minutes after pressing the "OK" button before activating tracking.

Get my drift?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sail changes

I've been a Pacific Action Sail (PAS) kayaker for over five years, but this year I'm making a change from the PAS to the Flat Earth Sail (FES). Both sails are 1 sqm, which is the maximum for Class 1 of WaterTribe's Everglades Challenge (EC).

I had three sails to choose from, which I believe are up to the rigours of an EC: the New Zealand designed and made PAS (as above), the Australian designed and made FES, and the American Balogh Sail Design's (BSD) 1 sqm. I have all three sitting here at home with me, and all three have varying capabilities.

The BSD is probably the best "sail" unit there is, but for me--a solo kayaker--I came to the hard conclusion that BSD's rig is a bit too complicated, high and heavy for my needs. And to stow it, I would need to get out of my boat and dismantle and tuck everything away in an already small, pod-seated cockpit. If I had a Kruger canoe, this would be a different conversation. BSD's Dave was also keen for me to fit the rig behind me, but then I wouldn't be able to trim or watch my luff as easily.

I have really enjoyed the PAS--my first EC I hit a consistent 25 kph (15.5 mph) in high winds and following seas! With my sailing experience, I believe I've been able to get more out of it than most, particularly closer up to windward. And being able to easily deploy the sail from the cockpit has been very useful. The sail is nylon, and I've found it's distorted over time; and PAS is not going to transfer to more typical sail material anytime soon.

I haven't yet had a chance to test my new Code Zero-styled FES (that's Dawn (SandyBottom) using hers above), but all the video and reviews I've watched and read with the sail in use has me excited about the possibilities. The sail shape and rigging concept is very Tasmanian--the folks who have really pushed sea/sailing kayaking to its limits. Like the PAS, the unit can be deployed from the cockpit. And FES users attest to being able to point up to windward quite a bit higher. Technically, it's 122cm (48") high, the boom is 87.63cm (34.5”), and the top batten (of two) is 119cm (47")--the lower batten acts as the boom. Sail material for the Code Zero is a white trilaminate sail material, which means it only comes in white.

Just like the PAS, the FES depresses the thin fibreglass of my for'deck. For the PAS, I had a unit made that the PAS rested on (see top photo). For the FES, I am extremely grateful that Alan (SOS) and Paul (DancesWithSandyBottom) Stewart have spirited my boat away to Graeme Byrnes' (Roo) boatyard--where Alan works--and are strengthening the underdeck with epoxy. I don't envy them this weekend--temperatures were down to -6C (20F) last night, with only around 4C (40F) today, albeit sunny. In the photo above, you can see the SpongeBob Pants-looking heater atop the for'ad hatch, trying to dry the epoxy!