Archive for January, 2007

Arctic photo archive

January 31, 2007

Justine Curgenven caught on camera a sea kayak pitchpoling in heavy storm surf and posted a clip on her blog. But even more interesting is a post about the Danish arctic photo archive As Justine says:

The database is in Danish only but… if you look for kajakker you will have all kayak-photos, starting with the oldest. You can limit the search by writing kajakker fangst (kayaks hunting), but you might miss some relevant photos.

I did just that and found some hauntingly beautiful photos. I chose these three as they are intriguing, instructive and a little scary.

Arctic photo archive

Arctic photo archive

Arctic photo archive


They also capture the key to my interest in sea kayaking, self sufficiency.


Japan maps

January 30, 2007

A while ago Douglas Wilcox wrote about his interest in maps and stole my thunder. I love maps, the more interesting and tectonic the better, but lets not get into that, instead check out some of these beauties available at very low cost from the Geological Survey of Japan


Geological map of Mount Fuji



Geothermal map of Kyushu, the southern most of the 4 main islands of Japan. (Another day I will tell you about the Buddhist temple in Kagoshima that I worked on).


a sample of the digital version fo these geological maps of Japan.


onikobe map

Onikobe in Miyagi where I am going this weekend for my 5th wedding anniversary combined with some skiing.

This is the map (along with the Fuji one) that I plan to buy, digital, of the Tohoku Region 3,000yen.

Lastly it is not a beautiful map but it is sometimes hard to find: a good overall satellite map of Japan (from here)

overall japan

Woody’s kayak trips

January 30, 2007

I’m obviously not the first Gaijin (foreigner) to kayak in Japan. One of the first sites I discovered was Woody’s kayak trips who was here for a few years and has some good stories to tell:

I hadn’t seen any waves this big all day. Certainly not this many in a row and as I slam down on the back side of the wave I catch sight of the next wave. I know that although I am still back paddling and further out then when the first wave passed, I will not avoid this one.

Again I am staring down at my bow in the trough of the wave. I’m ‘standing’ on the foot pegs and nearly laying on my rear deck as my kayak pitched vertically. Instinctively I reach up and behind me to brace into the top of the wave. As the wave breaks it covers me and pitches me forward. Immediately I am upside down. But I am calm – just waiting for the wave to release me so I can roll up. I have my unfeathered paddle in one hand. The drag I feel will have me off the wave in no time. But a long few moments later I feel the paddle leave my hand. It is obvious from the feel it has snapped in to two pieces.

Now upside down – spending more time on the wave than I want, and because the paddle broke right in my hand, I don’t even have a half paddle to roll up with. I wait till I know I was mostly off the wave and wet exit. I keep hold of the kayak but I know I have to move to the ocean most end quickly. Another big wave is approaching and I don’t want to lose the boat or get it slammed into me. I grab the stern toggle and hold on. As the wave passes the boat it pulls me quite strongly toward shore. This is too violent and strong for me to even attempt to get my spare paddle off the rear deck and perform a reenter and roll. I will have to hang on.

Ahead and a little to my right I see my neoprene cap. It has been ripped from my closed pfd pocket. I tow the boat more in its direction and a few waves later I catch up with it. I occasionally catch sight of half of my paddle floating with the blade in the air like a waterborne stop sign. The weight from the extra shaft in this piece is causing the paddle to stand on end.

I finally get into a zone that is calm enough I feel I can get my spare paddle. After I assemble it I touch bottom with my feet. Close enough now to just go ashore, I walk in to the beach.

On shore I drag the boat up and pull off my pfd and skirt. I begin to walk up the beach looking for my broken paddle. Not seeing it I turn around and walk back and spot the big half near where I had come ashore. The paddle is broken on the right side were my hand was holding it.

I search a bit more for the small half. I begin to give up when I see a `fin’ flash in the water near the jetty. Now I have both halves. Hard to just give up on a $220 paddle.

Now I’m in search of a good surf paddle. Something that can take the abuse, yet not wear me down to the point of exhaustion when touring at sea. I suspect if I had been paddling feathered the paddle would not have broke, but I was still disappointed at how little pull I was feeling when it snapped.

He also took some nice pictures

woody copyright
And has some good info for kayakers around Aomori and Iwate.

From what I can gather, Woody was posted as part of the US army (?) in the Misawa air base in Aomori – the far north of the main Island of Honshu – that’s Hokkaido poking into the top of the map and the Tsuguru strait indicated.

copyright Woody

Much of his kayaking was done on Lake Misawa. He is a very good paddler and has/had a beautiful feathercraft folding boat. Check out his trip reports in Japan from 2001-2002.

And as for his above description of the broken paddle – I had the same thing happen with the same feeling, like a hot knife through butter and great disapointment.

Kayaking is for old guys

January 30, 2007

I’ve felt this for a long time. Kayaking is for old guys with beards. Woody did a poll:


I would also hazard a guess that 50-60% of the people who were under 31 when they started paddling were in river kayaks or canoes; and a further 20-30% are now over 31. Leaving a measly 10-30% of under 31 sea kayakers.

At least that is my impression. I have no evidence for this.

(I’m not ageist or beardist as I am 36 and sport a beard from time to time. I also recognise that there a number of well known female seakayakers…)

ps. I found this beard and wow! is that a beard (see the Beard Liberation Front or BLF) the owner is Turner


Katadyn Survivor 35 manual desalinator pump

January 29, 2007

Andrew McCauley’s wife informs us that he is now proucing all his own drinking water from the Katadyn Survivor 35 manual desalinator pump:

the pump

I was very interested in this. 15 minutes gets him 1 litre of drinking water. 


Reverse osmosis membrane: to really get how it works you’d need to know what that is. In summary Reverse Osmosis Membranes produce:

a consistently pure drinking water supply and to transform drinking water to high purity water for industrial use at microelectronics, food and beverage, power, and pharmaceutical facilities. The technology is also very effective at removing bacteria, pyrogens, and organic contaminants.

Reverse osmosis separation technology is used to remove dissolved impurities from water through the use of a semi-permeable membrane. RO involves the reversal of flow through a membrane from a high salinity, or concentrated, solution to the high purity, or “permeate”, stream on the opposite side of the membrane. Pressure is used as the driving force for the separation. The applied pressure must be in excess of the osmotic pressure of the dissolved contaminants to allow flow across the membrane.

It seems that the main innovation in the manual pump is the reuse of the waste water (brine) to aid the powering of the pump:

In order to remove dissolved salts from seawater with a reverse osmosis membrane, extremely high pressures must be generated. Traditionally, powerful motors and large amounts of energy were used … this was no problem for large vessels that had plenty of power and space to spare…

The Katadyn Energy Recovery system takes advantage of stored energy in the high pressure reject water that is typically wasted. The pressurized reject water is recirculated to the back side of the piston to aid the next stroke. This energy is kept in the system, resulting in less work to achieve fresh water.

more information here

Being 800km from fresh water I wonder if Andrew McCauley has got two in case one breaks?

I stumbled over this link researching the deslanitor – it is an interesting rant about How the U.S. Navy lives in Denial and is not ready for combat due to their lack of preparedness for abanoning ship

Andrew McCauley… past half way

January 26, 2007

He’s passed half way now. Set off on Jan 11th and his “poor old long suffereing” wife is charting his progress. Encounter with shark and rogue wave plus 40kn gales.

No details available on how he modified the kayak to deal with the cold.


I don’t really understand what drives someone to do this kind of crossing and I am sure glad I am nice and warm at home writing this.

Kayaking in sea ice

January 26, 2007

I have two short term ambitions for my sea kayaking. The first is to make the crossing from Matsushima to Ajishima (an open crossing of about 25km) before I leave Japan. The second is to paddle in sea ice.


Japan offers sea ice in Northern Hokkaido from January (article, information and map with up-to-date sea ice locations for Hokkaido) and the “bergy bits” can get further south through early April. Sadly I guess this one may have to wait as my third child is due 1st April.

But it doesn’t stop me dreaming and reading great stories about East Greenland (the account starts terribly with mention of a “fanny pack” but improves…)

EDIT: such is life, on Saturday the local paper that my wife reads had a big back page picture and article on sea ice trips to Hokkaido. Apparantly my wife has always wanted to go…


Prehistoric shark found in Japan

January 26, 2007

I got at least 40 hits yesterday from people looking for this news article so I thought I’d post it – public service: 


A rare frilled shark was captured live by fishermen off the coast of Japan. The toothy eel-like creature was taken to Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka where it later died according to Reuters.

The 5-foot (1.6 meter) long beast was believed to be ill because it was found in shallow waters. Generally the species, known as Chlamydoselachus anguineus, lives at a depth of 488-4550 feet (150-1400 m). It is considered a primitive shark, largely unchanged since prehistoric times.

“We believe moving pictures of a live specimen are extremely rare,” Reuters quoted an official at the park as saying. “They live between 600 and 1000 metres under the water, which is deeper than humans can go. We think it may have come close to the surface because it was sick, or else it was weakened because it was in shallow waters.”


text and images from here

Using other people’s images

January 26, 2007

One of the earliest blogs I read (and still is a good read) is In that the author talks about copyright and the internet (a lot). The premise for his blog includes posting images, articles and opinions from other people and he is quite clear and unrepentive about this breach of copyright. I too set out on this blog to not worry too much about copyright and so I take images from other people’s blogs and websites to post here.

Recently though I’ve been starting to feel a bit uncomfortable about this as there are many people who post things like this:

 do not useNow with excellent photographers like seakayakphoto or sandmarks or people who make a living from their images like John Bowermaster I could understand this more. But the above warning comes from and the images are pretty low grade (I class my own photos in this category so there is no shame in this). However it’s not just the above images. Last week I posted some images of the Severn bore despite a similar request not to from the sites’ owner. So I’d like to state my 4 point position (on appropriating other peoples images) so as to embolden me to keep doing it:

  1. The internet is useful for the propagation of information, ideas and images and this is a good thing.
  2. If you don’t want your images appropriated don’t post them to the internet.
  3. I don’t use other people’s images for anything other than interest (I don’t advertise and don’t make any money from this)
  4. My images are available on the same basis

Fair use copyright laws in many countries would protect such use, but its not about copyright law, its about people. I don’t really want to piss people off, what would be the point in that?

Kelly kettle stove

January 24, 2007

Douglas Wilcox posts a review of 4 different stoves here. The gas stoves don’t interest me at all (in fact I look down my nose at gas) but the the kelly kettle looks like good design.

how it works

Basically a double walled vessel which sits over a small ‘any material’ fire and has a relativley massive surface area to water volume and hence should be very quick at heating the water.

However the price; $66US for a 1litre stove and $75 for the 2.5 litre stove, seems extraordinarily expensive for what it is. Especially when you consider that you can buy a trangia – with lots more ‘engineering’ for about the same price.

(ps I use US$ because I can’t figure out how to find the pounds symbol on my Japanese keyboard)

Tidal wave

January 18, 2007

severn bore
Images by Chris Witts from here

The old “tidal wave” word is now best described as a tidal bore (save confusin with tsunamis). There is a Severn Bore which can be surfed check out the Bore Riders Club

“When the boar comes, the stream does not swell by degrees, as at other times, but rolls in with a head…foaming and roaring as though it were enraged by the opposition which it encounter”

Thomas Harrel 1824

 curling bore wave

Also from the Severn Bore site:

The Severn Bore is one of Britain’s few truly spectacular natural phenomena. It is a large surge wave that can be seen in the estuary of the River Severn, where the tidal range is the 2nd highest in the world, being as much as 50 feet (approx. 15.4m).

As many as 60 bores occur throughout the world where the river estuary is the right shape and the tidal conditions are such that the wave is able to form. The Severn Bore (one of 8 in the UK) is one of the biggest in the world but bores also occur on the Seine and Gironde in France, on the Indus, Hooghly and Brahmaputra in India, on the Amazon in Brazil, on the Petitcodiac, New Brunswick, and also the Knik Arm bore at the head of Cook Inlet, Alaska.

By far the biggest bore in the World is the Ch’ient’ang’kian (Hang-chou-fe) in China. At spring tides the wave attains a height of up to 25 ft (7.5 m) and a speed of 13-15 knots (24-27 km/h). It is heard advancing at a range of 14 miles (22 km).

watch a clip of the chinese tidal wave bursting over the water defences

Sand Marks

January 18, 2007

I just got it, what a schmuck. Sand marks, not a guys name; marks in the sand.

There is a very funny post by that dude about surfing a “gnarly break” on surfin’turf. Now that is what I call dry humour. Touche.

Sands Marks

The most creative kayak pictures I have ever seen!

Gordon Brown on Greenland kayaks

January 17, 2007

Gordon Brown author of Seakayaking, in a interview with Simon Willis published as a podcast said:

“There is no place within modern seakayaking for [skin on frame kayaks and greenland paddles]”

He calls Greenland paddles “lollipop stick paddles”. I think he is being deliberately provocative and it is said with some affection as he uses both and can roll like a greenlander but it bugged me for two reasons

Firstly what is the point of limiting the sport? Why define edges or classes? Yet even the term ‘sport’ or ‘modern seakyaking’ gets up my nose, for me sea kayaking is about being on the sea. In what doesn’t really matter. I think of this as a ‘club’ mentality which sadly is a british disease.

Secondly I am not sure it’s factually true. It reminded me of an article by a greenland kayak expert on the most famous greenlander out there Maligiaq Padilla:

Using a Greenland paddle and a borrowed touring kayak with no rudder, he competed against kayakers who used racing kayaks and wing paddles. He made a respectable showing in the top ten, in spite of having to paddle a lot on one side to compensate for side winds.

Later, in Miami, using a borrowed surf ski and a Greenland paddle, he won first place in his category and second place overall, beating several kayakers who used wing paddles.

The full article here.

Anyway I apprecaite Gordon Brown as a sceptical calvanistic Scotsman and its this sceptisicm that made Scotland great (a nation of inventors). A subject blogged about by Douglas Wilcox today too.

Bumfortable seat

January 16, 2007

I’m a designer and I love these kind of creative names that reek of the new world. The Bumfortable seat is a replacement kayak seat that is, well you guessed it, comfortable on your bum…


The name may be good but the colours are terrible. It pains me to have this photo on my blog.

kayak reviews

January 16, 2007

copyright Douglas Wilcox has published some very good kayak reviews (with of course photographs) of the Valley Nordkapp LV and P&H Quest LV comparing them to other models.