Archive for November, 2006

Finding shelter from 20knot winds

November 23, 2006

The wind was really blowing today. 10m/s the forecast said (thats about 20knotts to you and me). But the great thing about Matsushima is you can always find shelter.


The view from the normally lake-like Matsushima bay with frequent whitecaps in the middle distance. Although it doesn’t look bad in this picture, there was no way I was putting into this wind.


Fortunetaly just 1km round the headland was this bay – totally protected from the wind and very inviting.

…with some nice architecture…


as you can see from my deck I took my new hand- line (home made) for fishing, a net and an anchor. I didn’t fish much though as the best spots were in the wind and I was staying close to shore to avoid that.

beautiful sunny weather


And because of the rounded bay shape even some clapotis – these were off 6 inch waves, I would love to see what happens when the big stuff rolls around this cove.







a deep one too


maybe 50m?


Maybe a lot more, still can’t see the end but the narrowing cave suddenly gives me the willies and I back track out again. (shame about the plastic bottles huh?)


It is very unlike Scotland though; 14 degrees, out of the wind, on November 23rd.


my lunch destination



Sea Kayaking book

November 22, 2006

There is a new book out by Scottish sea kayaker Gordon Brown, (of Skyak adventures fame). The Title is “Sea Kayak” with a tag line of “A manual for intermediate and advanced sea kayakers”.

Despite the unimaginative title it looks pretty good. You can download two chapters from the publishers website


On page 1 of chapter 15 “Swell” he answers my question about what to do in the case of a tsunami.

Other phenomena that cause swell are earthquakes, massive landslips and meteorite impacts, each of which may generate tsunami (tidal waves). The power of a tsunami can be truly awesome as observed in the Indian Ocean, December 2004. Caused by an underwater earthquake, the resulting surface wave was only a few centimetres high, but the wave was
full-depth, that is its effect went from the surface to the ocean floor. When it came close to land the first indication was that the water drained from beaches and reefs only to be replaced by a very much larger lump of sea. If you are on the water when a tsunami occurs, the best option for your survival is to turn out to sea and paddle as if your life depended on it, because it probably does.

He has a definition on wave height which answers my question:

Wave height is the vertical distance from trough to peak of a wave.

The pictures also look great (poor resolution here) this one of clapotis (caused by wave interaction)


I’m definately getting this book, not least as it is written by a Scottish sea kayaker and I imagine I won’t have to interpret the advice as much as I had to with the other books on sea kayaking I have read.

Out on December 7th from Paseda press.

Bad weather in Scotland

November 22, 2006

Some scarey weather in Scotland at the moment as reported by Cailean Mcleod. This is an extract from the coast guard website linked to be Cailean:

Oil tanker swamped in hurricane conditions

Longhope RNLI lifeboat crew went to the aid of an oil tanker in the Pentland Firth in hurricane force conditions on Saturday 11 November. Three men had been seriously injured aboard the oil tanker, on route to Texas, after a large wave swamped her deck.

The new Tamar class lifeboat at Longhope, which has only been on station for a month, was requested to launch with medical assistance aboard. This was the first sea search and rescue Dr Christine Bradshaw had ever been involved in.

The tanker, FR8 Venture, was stuck in violent storm conditions south of the island of Swona. On arrival the lifeboat and helicopter proceeded to the east of Swona to get some shelter to allow the doctor to be winched onto the helicopter and then to the casualty.

The casualty was pitching badly at times with the decks frequently under water. The winds were blowing at 70-80 mph and waves were up to 15 metres high. Whilst the helicopter winched the doctor in the severe conditions, Longhope lifeboat circled to guard against any mishap in transfer. The doctor was dropped onto the wheelhouse and proceeded below to tend to the patients, two of which had already died.

Coxswain Kevin Kirkpatrick, said: ‘At the time the doctor was winched off the lifeboat, I reckon the wind was exceeding 70 to 80 mph. Conditions couldn’t have been worse and she did a really good job.’

Dr Bradshaw and the injured crew were transferred back to the helicopter and taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Iwate kayaking advice

November 22, 2006

I got some kayaking advice from Nori about Iwate which I thought I should share for posterity (and for next time):

“I recommend you to go kayaking between Todoga-saki and Kubi -saki. And you have to be careful outside of bays, especially east side of Funakoshi Peninsula which faces open ocean. There are no escape point for about 7km.

If the weather was perfect, I would try that put-in Maesuga, south side of the neck of Funakoshi Peninsula and go around the peninsula and across Yamada bay then reach to Aneyoshi Campsite. Then next day I would go Todogasaki (the eastern most place in Honshu) and go back to Yamada Bay and land to Uranohama or Osawa. One thing I have to say is you probably could not take a taxi from Aneyoshi and two or three buses(I am not sure) from there. that means you have to consider about the weather on Sunday!

Besides Oneyoshi, There are several campsite in this area. My favorite is Nehama Campsite near Unosumai. Also you may be allowed camping the most of fishing ports. Just say ‘Kyanpu shi te iidesuka?’ They are usually kind.

You can easily find the place to put-in except around Jodogahama. these places are privately owned for commercial. If you go to north of Miyako, Nakanohama and Masaki are good paces to camp and easy to put-in.

If the weather was bad, inside of Yamada bay is good to kayak. Or you can try to go kayaking to the mouth of the bay(between Kawashiro and Aneyoshi) depending on the condition.”

Thanks Nori.

Trangia stoves

November 21, 2006

Last week I bought a trangia stove (27-3), the first one I have seen in Japan, at Mont Bell in Sendai. It is almost eaxctly the same as the one I owned when I was 17 climbing in the mountains of Scotland.


Trangia is a Swedish Stove. It runs on Alcohol (Methylated spirits in the UK). It is very light, works in all weather and wind and is surprising powerful. I have never seen this stove in Japan before, even my mountain climbing friend Yamauchi-san didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked him. Camping Gaz seems to have a lock on the market here.


That may be about to change…

I used mine to make a cup of tea, cook dinner (penne marinara) and then make cocoa all on a single filling of the burner (about 30ml of pure alcohol)

I fully recommend this stove. I also look forward to some hot tea on kayaking trips in future.

Iwate kayaking trip

November 18, 2006

I had planned a weekend in Iwate, camping over night and kayaking both days but cautiousness got the better of me and I didn’t camp.


Above is the put in as seen from the sea. This was a poor choice by me and it ended up as one of the reasons for me not camping: the put in was pretty rough: I got wet going out through the dumping surf and I was worried that if the weather changed on Sunday I wouldn’t be able to get back in. Even though the waves were small a steep beach with an odd shape meant they were uncomfortably dumping.

I started paddling at 11am after a massive 5 hour drive from Matsushima.

Along the way, I stopped in a town called kaminishi to visit Mesa, a kayaking shop run by Kusayama-san. He was very friendly and offered me some good advice about the area and the weather and what to look out for.

Between now (mid November) and the end of December they stop all kayaking because of the North West winds which are very strong.Kusayama-san cautioned against this wind and advised to stay near shore and the protection of the cliffs.
He also speaks good English and runs kayak tours so if you are heading to Iwate give him a call.

At his shop I also met Hiroko Takeuchi who runs Relaxing Program Sora, one of the kayak tour companies I list under tours and schools.


From 11 to 3 I paddled south from Taro along the beautiful Sanriku coastline. As you can see from the pictures it is very exposed with cliffs and rock gardens and few stopping points.


There was a 1m swell from the east and light winds as forecast…

But as the day progressed the winds increased a bit. They got particlarly strong at the peninsula tips making photogrphy difficult.


But the weather was really beautiful: blue skies and sunny. The temperature was about 10 degrees in the sun but with wind chill and shade felt close to freezing. The water was 15 degrees, not too bad.


It was really a beautiful coastline.


But spoiled by some made made things. In the above photo, on top of the cliff is a cheap plastic hotel with faux Islamic detailing and green roofs.


The scale of the coast is quite amazing. On these huge slab rocks there is a man standing, fishing. Can you see him? (Sorry for the bad photos – the sun just washed everything out and my camera is rubbish too).

At 2.30pm I stopped at a tiny beach to put on more clothes, as it was getting colder. So far I had gone about 8km and not seen a decent beach worth camping at, this was the first where landing was easyish. The beaches on the map shown as possible places to camp were ‘inhabited’ and this wasn’t the idea I had when planning this trip – I wanted to be in the wilderness. The other beaches were either tiny ledges or very difficult landings. Swimming the kayak in is fun in August but not that attractive in November…

I suppose I had an idea of Iwate as like the Highlands in Scotland – really away from civilisation. There are places in Scotland where the nearest house is 20 miles (in North America this distnace increases exponentially). In Japan I now realise this kind of wilderness simply doesn’t exist – at least on the coastline. (Maybe Hokkaido?) Japan is simply too densly populated and along pretty much the whole coast there are houses, villages and towns on every peice fo flat land.

Driving through Iwate I was struck by this. I had expected the ‘towniness’ of Miyagi to gradually fade as I drove north into the deep ‘Inaka’ but it didn’t and remained a constant throughout.

So here i was, stopped on this tiny beach with its steep slope and dumping surf thinking about what to do. I had an hour and a half before the sun set, then maybe 30 minutes more of usable light. I could carry on south towards Miyako and hope to find a good camping spot, there were probably some places. Or I could go back and camp by the car.

I decided to go back. Basically I chickened out of going south worried about not having enough information about the coast, the freshening wind and the problem of what to do should the weather change overnight. Also fresh in my mind was the poor choice of put in beach.

I think chickening out though was the right thing to do. It was an unfamiliar location, the weather was cold and most importantly I was on my own. If you paddle on your own you have to be overcautious I think.

Anyway after a solid 90 minutes of paddling into the wind and waves I got back to the put-in beach. Despite hanging around trying to time my run in I still got dumped by the surf as predicted. I then decided against camping. There were quite a few cars coming and going, stopping to look out to sea from the view point and I didn’t feel it was that safe. It was also pretty cold and home comforts beckoned.

But I did use my new trangia, (more on that tomorrow) to make dinner. Then on the way home I had an onsen in Miyako, as I luxuriated in the steaming hot baths remembered a few things:

1. Japan is great

2. I am old and not into ‘roughing it’ anymore

Lastly here is my route map (see also previous post on route 11)


Marine weather in Japan

November 17, 2006

It may be because the Japanese weather is not as changeable as that of the UK but I find the weather information available in Japan to be poor: difficult to find, not specific enough and in my experience not very accurate.

Take for example the Japan Meterological Agency (JMA). They are the official weather providers on whose information all the interent site sbase their information. Here is their isobar weather map of Japan for today:


Can you try and find Japan on this map?

(Scroll down to see the answer)

Even if you do find it what use is a map of this scale to anyone? It covers about 1500km from North to South.

The other example is sea state charts. The only website I have been able to find showing pedicited wave heights is this one and while they should be congratulated for making Japan clear, again there is very little detail.


Detail is of course what kayakers need.





Did you find Japan?


train times

November 17, 2006

I’m thinking to paddle south from Taro in Iwate to Miyako, camp along the way and then take the train from Miyako back to Taro, to pick up my car then go back to get the kayak. Complicated? Yes but it allows me to do a one way trip which is just much more fun.

I’ll be taking on of these trains:

6:05  7:13  8:05  9:18  11:18  12:12 13:10  15:07  16:08  17:20  18:31  19:24  20:14  21:04

duration 15 minutes.

Tsunami warning last night

November 16, 2006

There was a tsunami warning last night after a 8.1 magnitude earthquake in the Kuril Islands, north east of Japan. (image from the bbc story)

This has now made my wife very nervous about me going kayaking…

here is the map from the JMA:


Personally I am less worried about tsunamis although I do wonder.

They are also advising of gale force storm building of the Iwate Coast. Looks like short lived though…

and the text:

11:28 JST 11/16/2006
160900JST ISSUED AT 161130JST


WARM FRONT FROM 43N 144E TO 43N 146E 43N 149E
COLD FRONT FROM 43N 144E TO 40N 144E 37N 142E 34N 140E



Kayaking information in Japan

November 14, 2006

There is a book, that I bought, called “Sea Kayaking Map” or maybe “55map” not really sure. Anyway it presents 55 different routes for sea kayaking in Japan. It is not a great book for me as I can’t read much Japanese but I can get the basics, dangerous places, weather hints, the symbols for dangerous currents/waves, rocks no-go areas and of course where to get an onsen :-).
Before I bought this book I had already done a few of the routes, or parts of them (so far numbers 13 – Izushima, 14 – Matsushima and 28 – Kowaura [古和浦 not sure of reading]).

Here is the east half of the map of Japan with routes 1-28 marked.


This weekend my wife and children are in Tokyo visiting family so I want to go away kayaking for the weekend. My hope is to go to Iwate and do either route 11 or 12. Camp overnight, do some fishing and generally have a great relaxing solo time!

Sounds good huh?

Here is the info on route 11 (in Japanese). It is one of the most famous sea scapes in Japan and definately one of the most beautiful. I am really looking forwrad to it. So far the weather looks good; sunny, 11 degrees max 1 degree min, with lightish winds off shore. The only bad think is that that weekend is the dark of the moon so it really will be pitch dark (and at 4pm too!)


Anyway hopefully I will have some stuff to post next week, haven’t been out in the kayak for almost 3 weeeks!

A climaprene top and a neoprene balaclava

November 9, 2006

I turned 36 last week and I still get ‘birthday money’ from my parents – something wrong with this situiation I think. Anyway I used the cash to buy a long sleave climparene top (18,000 yen) to replace my wet suit top which is just isn’t very comfortable. Climaprene is very warm but allows your body to move properly without the restrictions of neoprene. It is ‘as warm as 2.5mm of neoprene’ which isn’t super great but I hope enough for me for now (next thing is to get a dry suit).

This is the spraf on climaprene:

“MontBell developed Climaprene for cold-weather water sports like paddling. Featuring a brushed fleece on the inside, laminated to polyurethane on the outside, Climaprene is highly windproof and waterproof. Climaprene dries quickly, retains heat well, and is as warm as 2.5 mm neoprene. Soft fleece against your skin helps you feel warm and cozy, while the aerodynamically smooth outer surface provides great stretch for a comfortable, body-hugging fit.

More compact and lighter weight than neoprene, Climaprene is ideal for canoe trips, rafting tours, or for any water sport where you need water-resistant warmth and comfort.”

I also bought a neoprene balaclava (2,000 yen) so I can still practice rolling in winter. I looked at the cap types but they didn’t feel very secure. The balaclava isn’t super comfortable (what balaclavas are?) but at least it won’t come off. Now I just need some time on the water. (My wife is going to Tokyo with the kids for two weeks so I might just have time)

A canoe dress

November 7, 2006


A dress which can become a life saving canoe. Inspired by hurricane Katrina and designed by RCA student Yael Mer

from coolhunter