27 November 2012

VIDEO: too windy

I believe in pushing myself in environments that are often outside my comfort level.
It is in conditions that test my skills and endurance that I gain a better understanding of my potential and abilities. I encourage others to do so too because I see it as the only thing that really improves a person's confidence, fast.
Lately I have been spending more and more time paddling in windy conditions because I feel that I greatly need to gain more skills in developed seas.
I used to dread a windy forecast; anything above 15 knots would make me reconsider my paddling plans. Now I look for winds that will oppose a tidal flow hoping for some waves that will mimic a tidal race. Bumpy is good.
Saturday's forecast was mild (up to 15 knots) but Sunday was shaping to have 25-35 knots wind against an ebbing tidal flow. I have paddled a few times there before and I knew that with onshore winds waves will form.
What I didn't know is that too much wind doesn't make for better fun.

I reefed my Code Zero Flat Earth sail to reduce it's surface knowing that a full square meter was going to be too much for me to handle.
Soon after I launched I was again glad to be paddling with a Greenland paddle remembering how much more wind effected my Euro paddles used to be in a stiff breeze.
My progress was a bit erratic and the strong wind kept on pushing my bow downwind. The British kayak I was paddling has proven a handful before I relocated the seat forward (to balance its trim for beam winds); this time her handling was really lousy. I wished I would have weighted the bow with ballast to release the stern a bit as I could barely turn my kayak around and paddle back out into the waves for another run.

I will take a weathercocking kayak over a "neutral" one any day. In a weathercocking one I can drop a bit of skeg; in a so called neutral, when the wind really blows, it suddenly becomes lee cocking, something I definitely DO NOT want.
My attempt at sailing was dismal: even with only half sail I could not get my kayak going and I quickly capsized. It was then that all the futzing with sculling training in clam conditions came handy as I managed to roll back up without having to wet exit in a rather tricky scenario. I packed the sail back on the deck and continued to just surf the messy waves.
After a few hours of battling with the wind I called it a day.
Getting the kayak back from the shore across the sandblasting beach with me leaning at a great angle into the wind, was another story.


14 November 2012

GEAR: the 10 NON essentials

I keep on coming across lists of the ten essentials; ten essential items that I should not leave home without.
Ten essentials to go backpacking, ten essentials to go skiing and of course ten essentials to go sea kayaking. I even heard of the ten essentials to survive a trip to Thailand's notorious clubbing scene :-)

Of course the ten essentials are a go-to list of items that we should not forget when going on a trip or outing, items that make our adventures safer or just simply more comfortable.
I often also see the opposite of this these lists where backpackers, riders or paddlers overload their packs and crafts with items that I really would not think of taking with me. Just because my kayak has an enormous amount of space inside the hatches I don't find the need to fill that void with "stuff"
Before I sea kayaked I did a lot of backpacking so maybe I have developed a tendency to streamline and go light, often leaving at the unnecessary things at home.
I find truth in the saying "less is more", where I feel that the less gear I take with me the more I get in touch with my surroundings.
There are items that I don't take with me when paddling; here is my list of 10 non essentials

1) I have written about light shelters before and I still think that a "walk-in" tent is really out of place when sea kayaking. It just weights so much and often is a bad choice on a windy beach where the sheer size of the structure makes for good "shaking and flapping". I prefer to go with something smaller.
20070802-05 - Assateague Island beach camping - Greg & Nicole's tent blowing in the wind - (by Ian) - 1023721717_a2e4e60fa7_o

2) A pillow; a full size house pillow. Nah, always found those thing suitable only for my bedroom. A small inflatable pillow does the job for me or even some clothing on top of my PFD will do at times.

3) Jeans. What's up with that? Jeans were originally designed for cowboys, to withstand the rough and toughness of mustering animals. They also work great for heavy labour and I condone their use in urban environments (however I don't wear jeans); but for sea kayaking? No, I don't mean just while paddling, (I have seen that too) but around camp. For me, only safari suit polyester pants are less comfortable while sitting on the ground.

4) Sitting on the ground, you ask? Who does that?
I do. Seriously guys: do I really need a reclining chair to camp away from home?
I rather enjoy being able to stretch my body on the ground on a simple light tarp or mat; it keeps me more connected to the place I am spending the night at.

5) Tables. Just like chairs I think that with tables I just want to replicate an environment that I want to escape from. I see no point to have my dining room in the stix. I want something different, something a bit more organic when I am away from home those few nights a year.

Modern Camping.

I do however pack a very light and compact butterfly table (the size of my kayak's bulkhead), if I know that I will be camping on a beach with sand and no grass. I dislike preparing my meal in the sand because inevitably it seems to end up in my food too. However, if I plan to go superlight, then a thin ground sheet will have to do and I will be extra careful in trying to keep that hot stove away from plastic.

6) A gas lanterns. Gas lanterns were the rage when there was very little alternative for illumination.
These days I prefer a super compact, less fragile, safer and much longer lasting LED camp light. They come in all sort of shapes and colors too.

7) A shower. Really, a shower? Yep, those big black plastic water bags, that I have seen people lay in the sun during the day planning to have a hot shower at night.

solar shower photo credit: grlfr
 All that stuff for a few days away from home? It's not like I am crossing the desert and I have been dusty for a week... when sea kayaking I tend to actually have a swim in a creek or the ocean if I feel the urge to clean myself. And if it's cold, I man-up enough for those few minutes of significant shrinkage :-)

8) iPod, iPhone, iPad or other electronic devices. Again, the beauty of going away from it all is to be away from it all. I see little point in distracting myself from where I actually am; silence is gold to me. Listening to and observing what's around me is way more soothing than the bobbing tunes that I listen to at home. I love being present in my new environment.
The only thing I take with me is the iPood

9) The mighty GPS, on an outing that I have done dozens of times before (I am yet to use a GPS anyway).  Maybe it's just me but I see no point "breadcrumbing" my trip, in details. Or even less know my top speed since speed, in a sea kayak, doesn't interest me.

10) Last but not least this little gem :-)


08 November 2012

Photo: simple camp

As summer is approaching (Southern hemisphere) I know that soon it will be too hot for me to go backpacking: we had temperatures of 30C already.
In my last effort to get a last blast of cold weather I wanted, for a couple of nights, to camp simply.

CandleFire at bivvi_c

I left the sturdy tent at home despite knowing that it might rain and be windy.
It was a welcome challenge to set up my shelter for the night with just a thin sil-nylon tarp in a breezy location. A candle-fire created a cozy feeling even if the flame is too meek to warm me.
The tarp flapped around a bit at night but allowed me to watch the moon play hide-and-seek with the clouds.
It was a rewarding experience to leave behind the comforts of city life, stripping myself of the safety of solid brick walls.
Laying on the ground, with only my face exposed from the sleeping bag, listening to the wind whistling in the trees is an experience 5 star hotels can't buy me.