Archive for September, 2006

Risk, surfing and a wet phone

September 30, 2006

Saturday 30th September 2006

Leaving home at 9am and picking up breakfast and a can of tinned hot coffee on the way I head to my usual put-in. These donuts by the way are amazing (they are on my list of things to miss when I get back to the UK) they are filled with a bean curd paste called anko.


They are a mix of unhealthy, sugary, fatty donut and healthy protein based bean paste and a great high energy food before kayaking. Nicknamed anpan these donuts even inspired a childrens comic book superhero: anpan-man. 2 for 100yen.

Again the westher forecast was wrong – it was supposed to be cloudy with the chance of rain, it started off cloudy but by 11am it was glorious sunshine and blue skies. Sadly by that time my cell phone and camera had stopped working. A little sea water got in my supposedly dry bottle (perhaps I’ve lost a rubber seal?) and my phone went a bit weird. It still runs, tells the time but none of the buttons except the on/off button work.

I wasn’t sure what to do, one idea was a long tour round the headlands and the other surfing. I had decided that I should spend the rest of the warm water season surfing but the cloudy weather wasn’t encouraging me to get wet. On the way to the put-in I drove to one end of the beach and had a look at the surf – it was looking lovely.


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Sailing a kayak

September 27, 2006

I want to learn to sail my kayak. It sounds like lots of fun and a high speed option!

There are two main options. A ‘pop up’ sailing rig such as the ones provided by Pacific Action in New Zealand.



There are good descriptions and reviews of this sail system here and here.

The other oprion is a kite. When I first started thinking about the kite option I got really excited because I have seen and wanted to try kite surfing in Tarifa, southern Spain (a mecca for that sport).


But it seems its not the same in a kayak.


Sadly the kite has to pull the kayak from near or at the front otherwise it is slews the kayak sideways. This means that the kite has to be a single string version and not the powerful stunt parafoils they use in kite surfing.


images by Mark Harris
The kites available seem to be the fabric versions which i think looks dangerous and incovenient because when they ditch its almost impossible to get them back in the air as they fill with water. Kite surfers use a special inflatable kite with air filled socks that float and don’t take on water. These kind have disadvantages too, not least their price. The other problem is power, a big stunt parafoil would be way too powerful for a kayak – something I’ll need to think about.

Here is a good introduction to powering a kayak with a parafoil kite. And here. I definately think there is a sport to develop using a wave ski and kite surfers parafoil. You heard it here first.

Lastly you can also go more low tech:

“My other wind propulsion unit is a beach umbrella… Its easy to put up and take down and it was cheap. The umbrella moves my kayak about 4 mph in 10 -15 mph winds. It is also good in camp for sun shade and rain protection.” from here

Perhaps by sailing I could make the crossing from Matsushima bay to Ajishima, a crossing of about 25km and one that I have thought about since I started kayaking.

Other sail manufacturers include Balogh Sail Designs

Sea worthy

September 25, 2006

“To take to the sea in a kayak is to know humility. To cross the sea in a kayak alone is to know God.” Sea Kayaker Magazine

The ‘10 greatest sea kayak expeditions’ are recorded here. The list includes solo Atlantic crossings, paddling from California to Hawaii and from Hokkaido to Alaska.

[I’m writing a short introduction article for Miyagi ALTs and had to cut this bit for length but feel like I should record it, actually the quote and the link which is a really good article]

A faster boat

September 23, 2006

I went wakeboarding with Yamauchi-san, Jon Rose, Mike Woodard and Mark Barr on Saturday.


Despite the forecast for cloud and maybe rain it was the most beautiful day!


It is also the seaweed season and there were hundreds of small boats out setting up the seaweed farms.


Jon Rose and Yamauchi-san











I was probably my last time to go wakeboarding as I am giving up the boat hire membership (too expensive). But that made me determined to have fun and improve and I did, I even managed some jumps.


Thanks to Yamauchi-san for the images.

Paddle project

September 22, 2006

I’m going to make a Greenland storm paddle as my back up paddle. I’m hoping that stating that here will force me to do it (I’m nervous as my craftsmanship is generally not great).

Here is the dimensioned drawing based on my body measurements plus a little. I’ve added a little because my kayak is quite wide with a high foredeck. So for example rather than the paddle being my height 163cm to correspond to my height it will be 170cm.


I am going to use Japanese cedar which I hear is excellent quality, and easy to find. I am hoping it will be easy to get a good knot free 2’x4′ to make this from. 24 hours of labour to make it they say. At 2 hours a day that’s a months’ work. Watch this space.

Catastrophic failure of a button hole paddle

September 22, 2006

The saga continues (see the two affected trip reports here and here).

I took my broken paddle back to mont-bell in Sendai on Monday with the bamboo still splinted against it so they could see the issue. The manager was called straight away and they were very apologetic, I left my wife to talk to him in Japanese while I went off to find the paddle I wanted as a replacement and other bits of shopping (bungee cord to make a paddle leash and a book called “55 sea kayak routes in Japan” which I will post about next week).

When I got back my wife and the manager were finishing up their discussion but, rather than me being presented with the money back or a new paddle, I was being told that they were sending the paddle to the factory for testing. Within a week they would decide what to do viz a viz refund or exchange. (I wasn’t happy about this – I wanted an immediate refund but this is Japan and this is typical in my experience; consumers have little right of reply compared to ‘the West’). So no paddling for at least a week!

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Typhoon waves

September 20, 2006

Typhoon number 13 passed by on the Japan sea side (I live on the Pacific Ocean side). It brought with it hot and humid air and really big waves. Here is a map of the sea with the typhoon hanging over it. The red is +4.5m high waves.


Broken paddle!

September 19, 2006

Saturday 16th september 2006

I set out as planed from a wee fishing port whose name I don’t know.


On the way out of the harbour, paddling past the lines of fishermen, the last guy, right at the edge of the harbour shouts me over. It seems he has lost his fishing rod, a boat came past, snagged his line and hauled his whole rod and line out into the water. He asks me to go and get it. I paddle out and spot the float on the other side of the harbour.

I’m not delighted to be hanging around at the edge of this harbour what with the fishing boats coming and going. I haul up the line but the rod isn’t attached, the line has broken off. On the other end however is a small fish so I get the dubious pleasure of watching it die on my sprayskirt as I paddle back to the old fisherman. Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrows plan

September 15, 2006

I have the go ahead for some paddling tomorrow. My plan is to go to an area just south of Onagawa on the Oshika Penninsula, near the big nuclear power plant (fingers crossed with that). I scouted that area out and think it offers a good variety of conditions. If conditions permit I’ll cross out and do some island hopping.


The weather forecast is cloudy with the chance fo rain, temperature about 20 degrees C and water about the same.

There is a storm south of us, near Tokyo, which is blowing up some big waves but by the time they get to Onagawa they will be in 1.5-2m range.


The wind 4m/s is coming from roughly the same direction. If the waves prove too big, though I doubt it, in my new ‘intermediate’ level, I think there will be sufficient areas of protection around here that I can still fool around on the water.

The tide is pretty slack, half moon, out at 05.15 in at 17.43.

Will take my full wet suit in-case there is a chance to practice in the surf. Hope my damaged paddle holds out (as usual will take cable ties and gaffa tape emergency repair kit!)

Traditional shoes

September 13, 2006

I bought these wet suit shoes ‘cos they are cool


I had the choice of the boring ones


but chose cool.

The split toe is called ‘tabi’ and is a traditional Japanese thing, still worn as functional clothing by many farmers and (bizzarely) contractors. It also forms part of the formal Kimono. They also became fashionable for a while:


I had a pair of woolen socks like these but the friction from big toe rubbing against the other toes sent a shiver down my spine every time. In fact even thinking about it now I feel queezy.

Just like Scotland

September 13, 2006

Check out this weather report for the next 7 days

It’s been raining since Monday, a sort of dull, constant drizzly rain and it looks scheduled to go on for a week (or more?!). This is very un Japanese weather, much more like Scotland, and I don’t like it.

Due to all the cloud cover its dark by 5.30 so I have had to forget going in the evenings. Only a rainy weekend day to look forward to.

Answers to surf questions

September 12, 2006

I posted about my first surfing experience last week and I have now done some research to answer the question posed there.

I found a brilliant description here, the first quarter of which I have decided to rip and post direct. It is obviously not my work but the internet is a fickle and quickly changing beast – who’s to know how long it will be there for. Anyway I strongly recommend reading the original with long descriptions of what to do during the ‘ride’, fascinating (and advanced) stuff.


Kayak Surfing ZoneSurfers have been taking to the waves in a variety of craft for centuries. The beginnings of board surfing is commonly known to have started in Hawaii. The beginnings of kayak surfing are shrouded in mystery.

Whilst Indians and Eskimos are typically sited as the forbears of canoeing and kayaking, it was the Polynesians that were first recorded to be surfing their war canoes in Captain Cook’s log. Read the rest of this entry »

Other uses for your stuff

September 12, 2006

I wrote before about using my inflatable paddle float as a bailer (still haven’t sourced a decent bailer) well there are some more double uses out there. These are from the University of Sea Kayaking (personally I find the name a bit pompous – lets face it sea kayaking isn’t degree worthy, should be more like the vocational college.)

Anyway some of these are quite good. I’ve edited the poor ideas (IMO) and the sources (see link).

Support for a tarpaulin*

Paddle float:
Water carrier / bailer [my idea]
Fill an open hatch if cover is lost and the hatch is not too big
Pillow *


Extra support for an injured swimmer
Paddle float (last case alternative)
Padding if you had to immobilize an injured person

Spray Skirt:
Cover up when you have to change clothes in public places or discreet nature calls. *

Plastic Bag:
Sleeveless paddle jacket or rain jacket or wind breaker
Hatch cover (with duct tape)

Dry Bag:
Water carriers
Hatch cover (with duct tape)

You can turn a day hatch into a “mini-fridge” when camping, by insulating with bubblewrap. *

Hatch covers:
Emergency dinner plates *

* = I would like to use this idea.


September 12, 2006


Here is an image of the US Coastguard practicing – rescue swimmer drills in heavy seas.

I don’t even know the number to call for the Japanese Coast Guard, in case i ever needed them. I think it might be 118 but not sure. Anyway even if I could call them I’m not sure I could make my position and situation known in broken Japlish.

On the plus side though they are stationed at Shiogama – just a short 20 minutes from Matsushima.

Surfs up

September 7, 2006

Wednesday 6th September 2006

I got to my usual put in at 4.40pm and am getting more efficient at getting on the water so it didn’t take long. It was high tide and the sand bar was producing those small but long rolling waves. Maybe 20cm high. Fun, easy to get on, but not challenging so I quickly headed out along the coast.

wee ones

It’s raining and there is no-one around. [I have noticed that the Japanese people do not seem to like getting wet. I read somewhere that there are lots of umbrellas in Japan, 200milion in a country of 125million people. My mother-in-law has a theory about this. She says that in Japan it is harder to dry wet clothes inside (no central heating) so people tend to try and stay dry. It may also have to do with taking your shoes off, somehow but I digress.

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