Archive for December, 2006

BCU star grades sea kayaking

December 22, 2006

What a nightmare it is trying to get a straight answer on the above from google, not google’s fault but the BCU whose website needs some serious work.

But after much searching, it was interesting to read the grades. I had thought that a 4 star sea kayaker was a really good, advanced kayaker and grade 5 the stuff of dreams. But no. I could pass the 4 star test without doing anything (maybe practice my figure 8 knot). The 5 star test makes for interesting reading especially this principle:

“the award should be accessible to all those people who journey on the sea on a regular basis and should not be seen as the preserve of a few elite performers”

I really like this idea, my impression was very different but its good to read.

I am a bit away from the 5 star test but not that far. All the weather, charting and navigation I have from mountaineering and orienterring and specifc sea navigation and boating laws I have from sailing / powerboating (I’ve got a Class 2 Japanese Boat licence with allows me to pilot non commercial vessels up 10 tonnes and 10 nautical miles from shore 🙂 ).

I also think my leadership skills are good from my scouting and climbing days (and job). I have first aid certificates coming out of my ears – HSE led ones from working in a machine workshop and water based ones from SCUBA training (though I could do with a refresher course).

I guess the thing I need is more experience especially in rough weather darkness and fog and of camping from a kayak. I also don’t have any experience of rescuing other people and towing though I know the theory. I also think I need to improve on some of the technical aspects of my paddling – bow rudders, edged turns, stuff like that.

I’m not saying that is all I want to or need to learn, there are lost of things to learn and improve on, expecially my sculling and rolling. I want to do some cold water rolls and self rescues and of course get better and more confidnet with surfing. I’d also like to do some white water, river, kayaking.

Pasted below is the text from the 4 star and 5 star test descriptions (pdf). The ‘placid water star tests are available here (pdf).

4 star sea kayak test

The purpose of this test is to ensure that the candidate has sufficient knowledge and skill to enable him or her to take a kayak safely to sea in moderate conditions under a competent leader. Holding the 4 Star Test is a requirement for attending a training course for the qualification of Level 3 Coach – Sea.

BCU 3-Star test. Where a candidate does not hold this test a cross-section of the requirements of the 1-3 Star tests should be incorporated at the assessor s discretion.

The candidate must have taken part in at least three one day expeditions at sea. To rate as a qualifying expedition, the journey must have been on open water (i.e. where it is possible to be three miles from land in any direction). The journey may, however, be inshore close to a simple coastline not involving overfalls, tidal races, difficult landings or open crossings. Winds not exceeding Force 4. Not more than one trip shall be carried out on an estuary. The journey must have involved four hours travelling, with a lunch break in which the candidate was self-sufficient for food and drink. At least one journey must be on an entirely different stretch of coast to the other two.

The test must be taken at sea, under moderate conditions (wind or sea state 2-4) ideally during a day trip. Allowance will be made by the assessor if conditions are rough, but the kayak skills must be performed in a competent manner. For reasons of safety three kayaks will participate. The test will not be taken in a flat calm.

Level 3 Sea Coach or higher, who is an A1* Assessor

The candidate should be able to answer questions on the following:

Show a good knowledge of kayak, paddle and personal equipment.

Be aware of: Safety precautions applying particularly to the kayak at sea
The general effects of tide, current and wind
National Coastguard organisation and rescue services
Local waters and conditions
Potential hazards (especially busy estuaries and water ways)
Basic collision regulations and sound signals
Hypothermia / First Aid
Show a good understanding of immersion hypothermia, its causes and symptoms. Be able to deal with basic first aid incidents – eg a cut forehead or hand – or hold a first aid certificate.

Read the rest of this entry »


River grades

December 19, 2006

I’ve been reading a lot about river grades but it has taken a while to scout out the meaning of the grades but here it is  (avaiable at wikipedia)

A Grade I (One) section will have long sections of flat, slow moving water, with minor ripples or waves and a course that is easily navigable. There is little danger to swimmers (other than the usual hazards of water) and self-rescue should be easy.

Class/Grade II
A Grade II (Two) section may have sections of straightforward rapids, some small waves, weirs, small drops or ledges and eddys. There will be a clear route through all features without a need for inspection.

Class/Grade III
A Grade III (Three) section will have numerous rapids, irregular waves and moderate drops, harder eddys that may recirculate and stoppers may form below drops and in waves. The river may have a broken flow that might not always present a clear course. Often these sections have a series of drops creating a steep overall gradient. On the whole, from-the-water inspection should be sufficient, although some harder parts may need inspection from the river bank.

Class/Grade IV
A Grade IV (Four) section will feature long, difficult rapids with highly irregular waves, a steep gradient, a stepped profile with drops up to 3 m in height, difficult eddys and whirlpools. The course of the river may be hard to recognise and powerful but predictable flows require precise handling, with a high risk to swimmers. Off-river inspection is highly advised, as is bank support for some features.

Class/Grade V
A Grade V (Five) section will be similar to a Grade IV, with larger, more violent features and less predictable flows. Often, there will be large, unavoidable dangers such as holes and boiling/recirculating eddys. Courses are difficult to find and will definitely incur a risk to both paddler and equipment. A pre-run inspection from the river bank is VITAL. Rescue is often difficult, and bank support with throw lines is always recommended.

Class/Grade VI
A Grade VI (Six) section is at the pinnacle of technicality and difficulty. Only to be attempted by teams of highly skilled experts, there is a definite risk to a paddler’s life, as many of these sections have either never been (successfully) paddled before, or they have led to deaths. Often a Grade VI will be a single feature within a Grade IV or V section, such as a water fall. Bank support with rescue lines is always required, as is inspection from all possible angles, and luck is often considered an important part of a successful run.


Next thing is to find out about the BCU grades for paddlers…

River kayak

December 19, 2006

My friend Yamauichi-san has given me an extended loan of a plastic river kayak.
river kayak with dent

I am very happy: it will be my surf boat (I’m only sad that it will be at least 4 months before its warm enough to surf again). It is about 3000mm long, 560mm wide and fits me quite well – tighterthan my sea kayak.

It came covered in dust with a big dent just behind the cockpit, it was also really uncomfortable with no knee brace pads. I fixed that.


I started with a hair dryer but that was just going to take ages. So I moved on to the Kerosene heater (these seem to be the standard way to heat your house in Japan).


Wait 5 minutes then pop it out remarkably pain free process. Here it is fixed (with my daughter jumping in the picture).


I then bonded some 20mm thick dense foam into the position of my knees and thighs. Ready to go, except for a spray skirt. My existing skirt is for touring and has adjustable bungees that will tighten to fit this boat but it doesn’t feel very tight and I doubt it would survive a surf roll. I am loathed to buy a new one though as I will only use this kayak for a few months before we head back to Scotland and the size is unlikely to fit whatever new boat I get…


The boat also came with a very light Kevlar paddle. 217cm long with a (massive) 75 degree feather and seriously scooped face. I’m used to paddling unfeathered paddles (and hope to move soon to a greenland paddle) so I’m not sure how useful this will be. But I’m interested to try it out and it’s a spare at least.


Thanks again Yamauichi-san


December 18, 2006


“In full roar this whirlpool is so loud it can be heard almost ten miles away.”



One of he world’s largest is in Scotland in the gulf of Corryvreckan and I grew up with stories about it.

My uncle has a cottage on the Crinan Canal and we spent at least 2 weeks there every year, at Easter and October. At Crinan harbour my father would point out to one of the islands (Jura) and tell us stories about the giant whirlpool on the other side that sucked you under.

These stories included one of my earliest connections to sea kayaking – my dad told me someone had kayaked across it (maybe he was talking about Derek Hutchinson?). Although the scariest idea was saved for a guy called Bill Dunn who swan across it. (I don’t know for sure but that can’t have been at full flood when its at its strongest).

Now of course I have found out that lots of people kayak across it although the amount of flood is not clear. You can read one persons story here.

This is a description of the water state from Gemini water cruises:

On the flood, water has flowed up the Sound of Jura and has been agitated by the geography of the seabed. There are innumerable humps and holes and reefs in the Sound and these create terrific tidal flows, up-thrusts and eddies all over the place until finally in the Gulf there is a huge hole down to 219 metres before being confronted by a pinnacle of rock off the Scarba shore which rises to 29 metres from the surface. The steep east face of the pinnacle forces a massive upthrust of water to surface in pulses which are then swept away westward by the tidal flow and these dissipate into vortices or whirlpools moving west.

This is all clearly visible when there is no wind and the turbulent patterns are fascinating to see in mirror calm conditions. However when there is any serious wind strength, particularly from the west, the up-thrusts at the pinnacle fold into the oncoming waves and accentuate them. Thus building, in gale force conditions, standing waves that can be 8, 10 or 15 feet high. A truly awesome sight!

You can also get a dvd! check it out here. The main site for reading about Corryvreckan is which also has specific advice for kayakers and some terrifying anecdoates! That site also links to a dive site which has this factual information:

When the tide turns, it’s here [the pinnacle] that the downward currents are at their most dangerous – they can take you down to 75m or more. There are many horror stories of divers being swept away, jackets fully inflated as they’re forced deeper.

There is also a huge whirlpool in Japan.

naruto wood block print

And I’ve been there – out in one of the BIG boats – to see it. It was amazing and scary too, you could just imagine what would happen if you fell overboard.

It’s location is between Shikoku (the so called fourth island of Japan) and the main island of Honshu. My brother-in-law and his wife invited us to their place in Tokushima (at the time) and showed us around.

Underneath the world’s longest, single span suspension bridge is a monster whirlpool.

The strait between Naruto and Awaji island has a width of about 1.3 km. The strait is one of the connections between the Pacific Ocean and the Inland Sea… Due to the narrow strait, the water rushes through the Naruto channel at a speed of about 13-15 km/h. During a spring tide, the speed of the water may reach 20 km/h, creating a vortex up to 20 m in diameter.

The current in the strait is the fastest in Japan and the third fastest in the world after Moskstraumen of Norway with a top speed of 27.8 km/h and the Old Sow between New Brunswick and Maine with a top speed of 27.7 km/h. wikipedia

copyright nicholas delarue

Not been to the Norway or Maine ones…

EDIT: actually on doing more research on the Moskstraumen in Norway I discovered/remembered that I have been there or at least close by. When I was 11 we spent a month on Trondheim in the summer holidays (caught 100 cod in the space of a few weeks).  Anyway read more about the Moskstraumen here.

And a site with pictures of the old sow which is perhaps more interesting than the Moskstraumen but without the historical gravitas.

Sharks from a kayak

December 14, 2006

Shark!. eek. (See Swim at your own risk for some harrowing stories and a funny take on shark phobias).

Many people may have seen this but I just came across it.


It is a real picture (see here for verification) of a shark of the coast of Africa. It comes from an article in Africa Geographic and is about a group of researchers that are studying sharks from a kayak.

“Sitting in a 3.8-metre sea kayak and watching a four-metre great white approach you is a fairly tense experience. Although we had extensively tested the sharks’ reactions to an empty kayak and had observed no signs of aggression, this gave us little comfort as we eyed a great white heading straight for us, albeit slowly. Just a metre or so from the craft it veered off, circled and slowly approached from behind. It did this several times, occasionally lifting its head out of the water to get a better look. Then it lost interest, and as it continued on its way we were able to follow a short distance behind. Once we’d come to terms with having nothing between ourselves and a four-metre shark except a thin layer of plastic, our kayak made an ideal research platform for observing great white behaviour in shallow water.”

Not a shark

December 14, 2006

Not all black finned shadows you see below your kayak are sharks though…


This one was identified as a dolphin by snopes dot com

Shark attack

December 14, 2006

Today is shark day on this blog. I thought I’d dredge up a couple of old links to shark attack stories but in the process of finding these, I found a few more, so sorry if this is a long post…

1. California – kayaker capsized by a great white

Matt Hinton’s kayak was attacked by a White Shark, 150 meters off Trinidad Head and Beach, Humboldt County, California. Hinton, age 44, was 20 to 30 meters seaward of a craggy exposed rock. The water there was 1 to 2 fathoms deep, with a temperature of 14°C. At 1700 hours, Wednesday, 5 September 1990, the sky was clear and the air temperature was 20°C. The sea was calm and exceptionally flat, with a small westerly swell undulating above the sandy ocean floor and 5-6knot winds.

The kayak was 2.7 meters in length and colored medium blue. Hinton was dressed in a full black wetsuit and had been kayaking 15 to 20 minutes.

As a large rolling wave approached the kayak, Hinton turned slightly toward shore and began paddling slowly. The wave carried him inshore for several meters before he made a gentle turn to parallel the beach, heading north. Within moments of changing course, the kayak was violently struck from below and behind the rider’s cockpit. The kayak was lifted almost a meter out of the water before tipping over to starboard (the right side). Hinton recalled,

“I had a pretty good idea of what was happening. I’d heard about Rodney’s [Swan’s] attack ten days previous at the same beach, and was not at all that surprised. When I was underwater, I looked to my left and saw the shark. It looked to me as though the shark had turned off to my left after hitting the boat and was now in a slow turn back to the right. As the shark’s body curved away to its right, I was looking at the left profile only four or five feet away. The top of the shark was very dark, almost black, and the belly bright, gleaming white. The line of demarcation between the dark and light was very sharp and wavy. I estimated its size [length] to be 8 to 10 feet [approximately 2.5 to 3 meters]. I still had my paddle in my hands, and aimed a two-handed cross-body thrust at the shark’s head. The next thing I knew, I was on the surface about 20 feet [about 6 meters] from my boat.”

Hinton began the long swim to the beach, glancing back in fear that the shark might return. He held his paddle during the entire swim, which he estimated to take five minutes. Hinton had to wait on shore about 20 minutes before his kayak washed up into water shallow enough for him to wade out and retrieve it. He drained the kayak of water and spent about 10 minutes looking over its surface for evidence of the shark’s attack.

Matt Hinton wrote: “Following the attack I spent about ten minutes looking over the boat from stem to stern, hoping to find a tooth or two embedded in the hull. There were no teeth to be found; in fact, I couldn’t even tell if there were any new scratches or gouges among all the old ones already present.” Given the attacking shark’s potential for inflicting injury, the kayaker was fortunate to have escaped unharmed.

read the whole story here

2. South Africa – surf ski bitten by great white

…Trevor Wright and his paddling partner Alan Weston… were attacked by what was estimated to be a four-metre long shark.

The last time a shark attacked a surfskier was in 2002 when a Great White bit the tail end off Paul Mauger’s surfski. He escaped unscathed.

Weston, a 54-year-old firefighter, said last night he would not have gone out had he known that there had been a sighting earlier in the day.

“You just don’t tempt fate like that,” said Weston, who has been paddling with Wright three to four times a week for the past four years.

Wright, 54, who is a surveyor at the city council, said that he was doing well following his ordeal. The pair said they would first take to the waters at Marina Da Gama before they hit the open sea again.

Wright said he was paddling with Weston when he felt a knock at the back of his surfski.

“I suspected it was a shark and shouted to Alan that there was trouble. The next thing I knew, the thing had come around to the front of my surfski. All I saw was an open mouth and eyes looking up at me.”

Wright said although he panicked when he was bumped, he thought: “It’s either going to be you or me and it’s not going to be me.”

“When I saw the thing with its open mouth at the front of my ski, it looked really mean and I thought this is not going to be a joke. It means serious business.”

While the shark bit and gnawed at the front end of his surfski, Wright rested the back of his paddle on the water to support him so that he would not fall out. Before he knew it, the shark had moved alongside.

“I don’t know where its head or tail was. There was just this huge body next to me.

“I didn’t see the fin. I thought it was going to knock me out, but it must have dived. I just turned towards the rocks and paddled as fast as I could back to the shore.”

Weston said the whole scene was “surreal”.

“It looked like a movie. Trevor shouted to me and I could see there was something wrong. But then I just saw the shark’s head breach the water and how it took out his boat.

“I paddled like heck towards him so that he could hang onto my boat just in case he fell out, but luckily the shark disappeared.”

read the whole article here

3. Shark stalks boat


One of the more intriguing cases of a White Shark attack on a boat occurred on 9 July 1953 off Fourchu, on the southeastern coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Commercial fisherman John D. Burns, with companion John MacLeod, set out daily in his dory to harvest lobsters.

Many dories dotted the sea in their quest of the prized crustacean, but only Burns’ had a white-painted hull. For nearly a week the white-hulled dory was followed by a large shark after leaving the harbor. Day after day the other fishermen watched in disbelief as the shark stalked Burns and MacLeod’s dory from behind, just as an African Lion (Panthera leo) on the savanna might stalk a Thomson’s Gazelle (Gazella thomsoni).

No sooner would their dory put out to sea than a large dorsal fin would appear astern of the boat. Then, as the dory sailed alone on July 9, the shark charged, smashing a 20-centimeter hole through the bottom of the boat. Burns and MacLeod were thrown violently into the sea. Tragically, Burns was unable to combat the heavy seas and drowned. MacLeod, however, was rescued hours later, clinging cold and forlorn to the hull of Burns’ damaged dory.

The shark did not return after its initial – and only – strike against the boat. After the boat was retrieved, an incriminating tooth fragment was removed from the hole in the dory’s hull. Ichthyologist William C. Schroeder, of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, identified this tooth fragment as having been lost by “a White Shark about 12 feet [approximately 4 meters] in length and weighing 1,100 to 1,200 pounds [500 to 550 kilograms].”

story from here

4. Kayak Fisherman Harassed by Shark

A very shaken kayak fisherman… was recently harassed by a very large shark while fishing around 800 meters offshore on the east coast of Northland.

The shark started it’s relentless harassment of the kayak while the fisherman was hauling in a boat longline with fish on. The shark was taking or mauling the fish on the longline right under the kayak as the line was being hauled in.

In a bit of a panic and keen to put some distance between himself and the agressive shark, the fisherman quickly cut away the longline and accidentally sliced himself deeply above the knee in the process, this cut bled profusely.

The fisherman, obviously shocked by all this, then paddled very slowly away from the longline. Unfortunately, once the line was cut the shark shifted all of it’s attention onto the kayak, it started by circling, and then bumping against the kayak. Occasionaly the shark would submerge only to come up from the depths and bump into the kayak from below.

The fisherman then put all of his remaining bait and burley into a plastic bag and tossed it well away from the kayak in the hope that this would divert the sharks attention, it almost worked as the shark went over to investigate the cause of the splash where the bait bag had landed, but to his horror it returned seconds later.

During the worst parts of the harrassment the fisherman was nearly knocked out of the kayak by the shark several times and had to put his legs over the side and into the water to regain balance.

He also vomited several times during the attack, probably due to the shock of being exposed to a serious and life threating situation for such an extended period of time.

In all the shark hit the kayak between 15 and 20 times with different parts of it’s anatomy including the body, dorsal fin and tail.

When the fisherman was only 150 to 200 meters offshore the back of the kayak was hit violently and the stern momentarily went under. As soon as he had regained balance the fisherman poured on the power with the paddle and, as he reached the shallow weed line near the rocks, he glanced over his shoulder to see the shark close behind, but veering away to avoid the reef.

The shark was huge, on one pass at right angles and just under the center of the kayak the fisherman noted the width of the head was greater than the distance from the back of his seat to the front of his foot rests, his estimate is a meter or more between the eyes. On this pass the dorsal fin hit the kayak amidships and almost capsized it.

As for the length he noted that the shark tail extended “five to six feet” behind the stern of the kayak when the head of the shark was level with the front. He said the kayak is “twelve and a half feet long” so the shark must have been between 17′ 6″ to 18′ 6′ long or 5.33 to 5.64 meters!

The fisherman describes the shark as having a shiny, almost jet black top and very white undersides. He mentioned the pectoral fins and tail were huge and he was adamant the tail was positioned vertically on the shark (which rules out a killer whale or other dolphin). He said the dorsal fin never rose higher than 300 to 400mm above the water although, as the back of the huge fish never broke the surface, it could have been longer.

He also noted the front of the head was flat and not pointed, this may rule out a white pointer, otherwise a great white would fit the rest of the description perfectly.

Struggling hooked fish is probably the most powerful shark attractant available. Sharks can pick up vibrations from struggling fish from kilometers away almost instantly, and this is probably what brought the shark to the boat in the first place. When the shark arrived it took some fish from the longline which likely put it into a feeding mode, the added smell of blood in the water from the fish it had mauled would have probably kept in interested in the area.

Blood from the bait and burley thrown overboard, and any that was being washed off the deck of the kayak, plus the vomit and bleeding from the badly cut knee would have all added to the sharks curiousity in the kayak.

the whole story here

5. A pit bull shark?

March 16 2002, A snorkeler hunting for sand dollars 300 yards off Deerfield Beach Friday morning became the prey of a 3-foot nurse shark. Robert Land, 39, of Deerfield Beach, said he was swimming above a school of fish, when the shark lunged forward and clamped onto his left arm.

“I had to grab him and make my way up top to get more air,” Land said. He said he spent about five minutes struggling in the water, fighting with the shark while trying to breathe, when nearby boaters noticed his distress and came over to help.

“If they weren’t there, I don’t think you’d be talking to me right now,” Land said. But even when he was safely on the boat’s deck, Land was hardly out of harm’s way. The persistent shark refused to release its grip, so the boaters slit its belly — to no avail. “It was trying to rip my arm. Scary,” Land said.

With the shark still dangling from Land’s arm, the boaters raced to the nearby docks at the Boca Raton Beach Club, 900 S. Ocean Blvd., where Boca Raton Fire-Rescue workers were waiting. There, paramedics pried the shark’s jaws open with wood planks and pieces of metal, Land said. They gave Land nitrous oxide to ease the pain, but he said he never lost consciousness.

Land was taken to Boca Raton Community Hospital, where he was treated and released, said hospital spokeswoman Betsy Whisman. He said his arm is riddled with teeth marks, and now his biggest concern is infection. Land said he’s not going to let a little shark bite keep him out of the water.

from here


This article on US shark attacks at Wikipedia makes for somber and sad reading. It is a list of shark deaths in the US. There are only two kayak related deaths:

Tamara McAllister, 24 January 26, 1989 Great white shark Killed while kayaking off the coast of Malibu, California with her boyfriend, Roy Jeffrey Stoddard. McAllister’s body was found floating face down two days later with large sections from her legs and buttocks missing; no trace of Stoddard has ever been found.


Leonard Gant April 15, 1953 Unconfirmed Killed by a shark off McGregor Point, Maui, Hawaii swimming after canoe he was in became swamped.

a selection of others:

Suk Kyu (Steve) Park November 19, 1991 Tiger shark Fishing from rocks, swept out to sea and treading water when attacked at Maliko Point, Maui, Hawaii. His body was not recovered. Shorts found indicate shark bite on left side.
Gilbert S. Hotta January 16, 1950 Unconfirmed Swept into the sea while fishing by a large wave near Kahakuloa, Maui, Hawaii. His remains were recovered from a “huge shark” three days later.
Richard Clark Best Jr, 8 June 20, 1934 Unconfirmed, probably a bull or tiger shark Killed while standing in the surf at Melbourne, Florida.
Joseph Blaney 1905-1910 Unconfirmed, probably a great white shark Killed after falling into the water from a small boat in Swampscott, Essex County, Massachusetts. The shark had upset the boat and he fell into the water.

These brought tears to me eyes, they read like gravestones and the ones where children died get me every time. (This phenomenon started when my wife and I had our first child).


If you are now worried you can read about what to do on they also tell some more scary stories. But really you shouldn’t worry as they say here:

“A more serious hazard is suggested by a flattened saxophone.

That comical, two-dimensional instrument belongs to my friend John Lull, a blues musician and member of the Tsunami Rangers kayak club. Six years ago, Lull camped on a beach up this way. He awoke, left his tent, went to the campfire for coffee. A few seconds later, a hunk of cliff broke away and thundered down toward camp.

“Rocks as big as engine blocks fell from about 100 feet up,” Lull relates. “They hit a ledge, bounced, landed on my tent.”

Lull went back to dig out his gear. His flattened sax now hangs on his living room wall, a reminder to take great care when selecting a camp near steep and friable coastal rock.”

Kayakers survive the tsunami

December 12, 2006

Okay, I know I’m late (and thanks to the guys at but here is the story of Bob Kadiko

IT WAS THE DAY AFTER Christmas, and Bob Kandiko ’76 [class of 76 at Cornell University] and his wife and niece were kayaking the calm, teal waters off the island of Rawi in Thailand. They had been looking for a place to have lunch when they came upon the perfect spot–a gorgeous cove with a white-sand beach. But one thing struck Kandiko as strange: the ocean had receded so far that it had exposed the jagged coral seafloor– at high tide.

Kandiko, a middle-school science teacher from Bellingham, Washington, knew that an empty bay at high tide meant that a massive force had displaced a large amount of water, and quickly. And he knew that meant a tsunami.

As the kayakers watched, a four-meter-high wave rushed in, parallel to the shore, and filled the entire bay and beach in fifteen seconds. “Half of a football field is what we were looking at,” Kandiko says. The wave circled back and collided with itself like water in a giant blender, creating a swell that lifted the eighteen-foot kayaks and shoved them away from shore. “Right after that happened,” says his niece, Camille Kandiko ’02 [class of 2002 at Cornell], “my uncle screamed at us to paddle out to the ocean–fast.”

Kandiko knew that they’d be safest in deep water, where the tsunami would be a massive but navigable ocean swell; it breaks into a wave only as it nears land, he says. “And my comment was, ‘If it’s a tsunami, there’s going to be more coming.’ ” Sure enough, fifteen minutes later another wave–twice as big as the first–surged along the coast and crashed into the jungle, ripping up trees and churning the clear water to dark brown. “That’s when we started to get creeped out,” Camille says, “because we realized that had we been in there, we never would have survived.”

They made it to shore several exhausting hours later, but it would be days before they reached the mainland and discovered that the tsunami had left hundreds of thousands missing or dead throughout Southeast Asia.

from here

Intersting stuff. First that they survived at all (though from a quick google search Bob appears to be an experienced kayaker) and second that the kayaks didn’t seem that disturbed by the big waves. Maybe I’ll be okay if a tsunami hits in Japan after all.

News stories

December 12, 2006

I hate links that link to News stories becuase the stories always disappear after a while and you get dead links. I wish the guys at would figure this out, how frustrating to see some amazing sounding / looking stories only to find the link dead. Instead you guys should do it like this: post the whole story.
Kayak tour group rescued off west Maui

By Gary Kubota published by (no point in making the link)

MAALAEA, Maui » George and Sandra Wysock had paddled on lakes before, but they were not prepared for the strong winds and high seas that scared them and more than two dozen of their tour companions into abandoning their kayaks off West Maui yesterday.

Most of the 29 visitors who started an early morning kayak tour off Olowalu abandoned their vessels and swam for shore, with winds blowing at 28 to about 35 mph. The Coast Guard said none of them required hospitalization, but at least seven visitors on the Action Adventure Tours were rescued and taken aboard vessels. All of the visitors who swam to shore appeared to be wearing their life vests, and at one point were spread out over 1.3 miles along the shoreline.

“It was so hard to get back,” said Wisconsin resident George Wysock, who guessed he and his wife spent nearly four hours at sea, in and out of their kayaks, before being rescued by the Coast Guard.

Jeff Welch, one of three tour guides in the group, was in training and yesterday was his first day on the job. The winds, he said, carried him the farthest from shore.

“It seemed I was halfway to Kahoolawe,” said Welch, who was rescued by a Pacific Whale Foundation vessel. “I thought that was it for me. First I lost my life jacket, and then my kayak sunk on me.”

Welch, a surfer, said he tried swimming, but nothing seemed to work for him. “Every time I tried to swim, there was a mouth full of water,” he said. “I just prayed.”

The tour got off to a good start, Welch said, in waters off Olowalu between 7 and 8 a.m., but then the winds came rushing through the West Maui Mountains.

“It just blew everything out,” he said.

Coast Guard Chief Boatswain Mate Rob Bushey said his office receive a call about 11:55 a.m. from a fishing vessel that had picked up two kayakers in distress about a mile off Olowalu.

Bushey said the Coast Guard arrived in the area at about 12:19 p.m. and located several kayakers. County fire and rescue workers used jet skis and surfboards to assist swimmers to the beach or aboard the Coast Guard vessel.

Bushey said ideally people should stay with their vessel because it is a larger object, which makes it easier to spot.

Luckily, he said, everyone was wearing life vests.

So what did they do wrong? Well for one 3 guides and 27 group members – mostly beginners! They then got out of the boats…

Paddling around Japan

December 12, 2006

Getting back to the task at hand, which was to provide some information on kayaking in japan for those that like me arrived in Japan, wanted to paddle, but found the language barrier a difficult one to surmount…

Jeff Allen paddled around Japan with Hadas Feldman in 2004. I think I arrived here about the same time they left.

Paddle Japan
‘On a Wing and a Prayer’

Some things in life are just meant to happen. Paddle Japan was one such thing. From an idle comment over a cup of tea with ‘Hadas’ came a whole Japanese Odyssey.

It all started at the NDK (Nigel Dennis Kayaks) Dealers Meet in September ‘03, “Where would you most like to paddle Hadas?” was the idle comment. “ Hokkaido” was her reply. That was it. Some kind of karmic agreement had been settled upon and after very little planning ‘Hadas’ and I found ourselves meeting up in Narita airport and beginning a six-month journey by kayak around the four main Islands of Japan. .

Legend has it than when God was designing the surface of our planet He came to Japan and, after painting the four main islands, He accidentally knocked his brush thereby showering over two thousand tiny droplets in and around the coast. It looked so pretty, God decided to leave the droplets as they lay. This became “Yamato”, “ A Place of Mountains” the traditional name for Japan. The Chinese call Japan. ‘Nihon’ – “Land of the Rising Sun”…
Read the rest of the article about their 6 month epic here

Sea kayaking photography

December 11, 2006

Sea kayaking is a highly photogenic sport.


this image from the patagonia website in July.

There are a number of very good photographers who also blog about their stuff. Douglas Wilcox who I posted about last week is one. Is in conversation in a podcast with Simon Willis from sea kayak routes dot com listen to him talk about photography here.

There are also others who take great pictures.

Paddling with a camera is a blog by Marek Uliasz a hard core fitness padlder, mountaineer and photographer. He has some great images and, even better, reviews of cameras, tips and hints. Interestingly he mounts his camera in various positions…


Mark Sanders has a few linked sites including surfnturf where this series of amazing pictures (of some amazing skill) was posted




Mark also explains that he has a paddle mounted camera… interesting


Then there is the more commercial end but non-the-less amazing. John Bowermasters Oceans 8 expedition has some amazing images like these



December 7, 2006

I found this interesting snipet while looking for other things on Wikipedia and don’t want to lose  it  hence the usefullness of a blog.

It is about Ormers, a kind of Abalone, which is a kind of shellfish, in the Channel Islands :

Ormers (Haliotis tuberculata) are considered a delicacy in the Channel Islands and are pursued with great alacrity by the locals. Unfortunately, this has led to a dramatic depletion in numbers since the latter half of the 19th century, and ‘ormering’ is now strictly regulated in order to preserve stocks. The gathering of ormers is now restricted to a number of ‘ormering tides’, from the January 1 to April 30, which occur on the full or new moon and two days following. No ormers may be taken from the beach that are under 8 cm in shell length. Gatherers are not allowed to wear wetsuits or even put their heads underwater. Any breach of these laws is a criminal offence and can lead to a heavy fine. The demand for ormers is such that they led to the world’s first underwater arrest, when Mr Kempthorne-Leigh of Guernsey was arrested by a police officer in full diving gear when illegally diving for ormers.

I am certain there is a health and safety challenge awaiting the law that bans wet suits…

A bit cold

December 7, 2006

So Andrew McCauley turned around. 2 days out, his first night sleeping in the cockpit with his home made cover. Fair enough, and as the local kayaking association said its very good that he put safety first.

But… I don’t want to be harsh but… the issue seems very basic: had he not considered that it would be cold? Had he not tested it on an overnight trip? The cold that you get from a kayak is very noticeable. A grp or plastic boat has very little insulative value (it is so thin) and it is in constant contact with the cold sea, so any body part that touches the hull gets cold, quickly. I’ve noticed this on my knees on day paddles and wondered about insulating the hull.

There are some robust and very good spray insulations out there and I think even 30mm of something like polyurethane or polyisocyanate would work well. Here is a story, well told, about the values of various insulations, the author coming out on the side of polyurethane:

“One and a quarter inch of polyurethane sprayed properly in the wall of a house will prevent more heat loss than all the fiber insulation that can be crammed in the walls — even up to an eight-inch thickness. Not only does the polyurethane provide better insulation, it provides the house with significant additional strength.”
I am glad McCauley is okay though, last night as I was outside filling up the kerosene heater in about 0 dgrees temperature brrr… I thought, well at least I’m not kayaking in the dark on the Southern Ocean!

Abandoned crossing

December 7, 2006

Andrew McCauley: I’ve just read that he has abandoned his crossing:

Tactical Retreat			    Dec 6, 2006

Andrew made excellent progress in his first 24 hours of 
paddling. With 40 knots of wind up the tail at the start,
he delayed departure slightly until the wind had abated 
somewhat. Then in good conditions, he paddled all night 
on the first night, clocking up 80km. He pulled over for
some sleep at 4am.

Casper the Cockpit Canopy worked very well, keeping out 
the weather and locking out all the water and waves from 
the cockpit area. The feisty 30 knot winds and big southern 
ocean swells are a great proving ground for the concept, 
and it worked well. However, Andrew had trouble warming up
inside the cockpit. This is one of the compromises inherent
in doing this crossing in a conventional kayak - there is
no dry cabin to retreat to. Andrew felt that later in the 
trip, the problem of cold could prove dangerous. As a 
result, he made the courageous decision to retreat back to 
Tasmania. With favourable westerly winds making the push to
New Zealand an easier path, Andrew spent two days battling 
30-knot headwinds to make landing on Maria Island, on the 
east coast of Tasmania. He returned safely to the 
Tasmanian mainland last night.

Andrew's effort has been applauded by veteran Tasmanian 
sea kayakers. He made a responsible decision in difficult
circumstances, and had no reliance on external resources.
This is the kind of self-sufficient adventure that we'd
like to see more of in today's society. Well done Andrew!

We expect to have a personal update from Andrew when he
returns home in a few days.


That crazy Australian again

December 7, 2006

Andrew McCauley, who is doing the Tasmania to New Zealand crossing as I write. I was interested to know some details like how you pee in a kayak and if you paddle through the night what that is like. Well there are some good stories you can download from here.

Below is an extract (the night) from his ‘Bass Straight Crossing’ (The Bass straight is the body of water between Tasmania and Australia, about 220km across).

As the sun went down I stayed focused on paddling and I had no intention of stopping for sleep. As this trip was shortly after the new moon, I had just a thin sickle in the sky that would illuminate the night for a few hours before setting. With eyes well adjusted to the night this was enough light, however it was very dark when that moon went down! I had been hoping for a full moon for more light but in my mind the good forecast took precedence over the state of the moon. The stars were spectacular and it was exhilarating to be out in such a committing position on a beautiful night.

There was an exciting moment when I felt the need to pee late in the night. I deployed a drogue and sponsons in order to remain stable enough on what had become a fairly choppy sea and a very dark night. Everything is harder at night. With the wind in my face as I deployed the drogue off the bow, the sea seemed quite wild in the dark, it was totally different to having the wind & seas from behind. The lack of visual cues makes an enormous difference to how you perceive the weather and conditions around you! You have to rely on your other senses and this can take some getting used to, especially after all day and half a night on the water.

With no moon I was still reasonably happy to plod along, trying to maintain the pace and look after my body. There was a real low point between about 2am and 5am. I was feeling a lot like a bit of kip and started dropping off to sleep while still paddling. This is a lot like dropping off to sleep at the wheel of the car while still driving. I fought the urge as best I could but there comes a point where the heaviness of your eyelids is irresistible, and I nodded off and capsized. I woke up just as my head hit the water. A face full of Bass Strait made sure I was wide awake by the time I found myself upside down and staring at the cold black depths below. I rolled back up again and paddled hard for the next half hour or so to warm up, and then settled back into a steady rhythm.”

copyright Andrew McCauley