Archive for March, 2007

172km circumnavigation

March 26, 2007

Rik Brezina completed the circumnavigation of Amakusa, Kyushu last Wednesday (the vernal equinox and a public holiday in Japan) in 23hours and 49 minutes. Completing at the third attempt the 172km circumnavigation in under a day.

read about it here

and his other attempts here.

Pretty extraordinary trip and compares well with some of the best kayakers in the world; I was just reading about Freya Hoffmeisters 14hour circumnavigation of the Isle of Man (117km).

I also know that this is not for me, this kind of body punishment. When I was teenager I did a lot of mountaineering and eventually got into challenge hikes that were open to youth groups, venture scouts and army cadets. The cadets always won in feats of extraordinary endurance (we never got how they could do it – it wasn’t just that they beat us but the distance that they won by) my team were placed third in two events, one I remember vividly up and down the mountains around the aptly named Rest and Be Thankful.

The mounatins there aren’t huge, Ben Arthur, Beinn an Lochain, Ben Ime etc but in winter they can be challenging. From memory the idea was you had 36 hours to climb (run) 10 peaks. There was a long list of safety stuff that you had to carry with you, the heaviest of which was 100m of climbing rope. So to cut down weight we didn’t bring any food or cooking equipment – just a box of 100 mars bars betwen 4 of us and some kendal mint cake (a kind of boiled sugar). We completed the course with about 2 hours to spare but I was nearly dead from exhaustion, could hardly stand and had lost lots of weight (couldn’t choke down any more mars bars). One of my team mates insisted we go for a bonus stage – an hours climb to a check point that would get us a time bonus. That was the worst moment of my life and I will always remember it.

After that event I retired from hard core pain, haven’t eaten a mars bar since, and I don’t want to go back.


Cloud surfing

March 22, 2007

Burketown Northern Australia, under the Gulf of Carpentaria a cloud formation known as the Morning Glory:

cloud surfing

“With a population of just 178, Burketown sits in one of Australia’s most remote shires. But every September and October, a small group of individuals journey from all corners of the country for the appearance of a remarkable and dramatic cloud called the Morning Glory. Clouds don’t usually have names, nor are they normally linked to a particular location, but then the Morning Glory is no normal cloud. Looking like a huge white roll of meringue, it stretches up to 600 miles (about the length of Britain) and sweeps over Burketown at speeds of up to 35mph. The visitors who come to marvel at this beautiful and awe-inspiring meteorological phenomenon are an intrepid group of glider pilots, for whom the cloud promises the most unique and thrilling flying conditions of anywhere in the world. Each year they come to this sleepy town in the hope of ‘soaring’ the Morning Glory, an exhilarating gliding adventure that can only be described as cloud-surfing.”

source: the cloud apprecaition society but quoted and seen be me here

“After accidentally sleeping in the next morning, they made a scramble to get to the airport. “We lined up on the runway, just as the cloud rolled overhead, very low, eclipsing the sunshine as it went. We caught it halfway down the strip, the windsock still indicating nil wind, turned low and faced this great, grey Chiko Roll at 400 feet,” Russell says.

Rapidly they ascended to 330 metres, and suddenly they were at the front of the cloud, moving up quickly. It was at this moment that they killed the engine. “The silence was eerie as we continued to rise, awestruck by the spectacle. It was truly a magic moment.”

They rode the cloud inland until it petered out, then turned tail and headed back to Burketown, thrilled and amazed at what they had achieved. A few years later, Russell returned to do it all again and to his delight, reached speeds of 150km/hr, unofficially breaking several world records.”


Really does sound like surfing.

The original post by Kevin Kelly was about a book, the cloudspotters guide, about understanding cloud formations as predictions of weather. Douglas Wilcox posted on this subject: mackerel sky.

Surfing in Alaska

March 21, 2007

surf alaska

A still from a surf video on Alaska Sport Exposed. Interesting how small the break actually is and a very good instruction video (even though it’s not an instruction video). The kayaker is Martin Leonard, more about him another time.

Human powered ocean travel

March 20, 2007

Ocean Rowing is another world, full of tanned, muscled strongmen doing some pretty amazing things. Things like round the world rowing…

Pedal the Ocean is an interesting ‘in’ to this world and the crossover with kayaking. There are some excellent links and stories as one man plans to pedal across the Atlantic in a boat that looks more a sub than a boat.


3 million years of evolution has produced an animal whose natural environment probably consisted of walking the distance of a full marathon each and every single day*. Now take that animal (also known as a “human being”), and stick him in a small cage, rob him of natural sunlight, make him sit in a chair all day and feed him a steady supply of chemicals and refined foods.

Is it any wonder that 60% of North Americans are over weight?”

It is a good point.


As an aside I stumbled on this ‘bio’ which made me laugh

“Married for 61/2 years, been together 13 yrs., we have 4 teenagers, all love the outdoors, 2 are ok, 2 are braindead, and 1 of those may find the outdoors sooner than he thinks.”



Flower forecast

March 19, 2007

This is the Sakura forecast which the Japan Meterological Agency produces to predict the flowering of the cherry blossoms; a national, idiosyncratic preoccupation.


Shown here is western Japan from Tokyo south west to Kysuhu. It’ll be another month at least till the cherry blossoms arrive up here in Northern Japan.

Yuu aa kureijii

March 16, 2007

Rick and Leanne’s blog has entertained me all morning long (no classes today).

“When we explained we wouldn’t be needing our car because we’ll be paddling halfway back from Okinawa, they exclaimed: ‘Yuu aa kureijii!'”


Sod’s Law

March 14, 2007

Typical, it hardly snows all winter then just when I get the kayak out of winter storage this happens


The Sod’s Law effect is double because the mountains got 60cm of fresh powder the week after I have to stop skiing due to the imminent arrival of our third baby.

ps. seakayakphoto posted a snowy kayak picture recently too

38N 141E and the confluence project

March 14, 2007

Rik and Leanne posted about the confluence project which sounds kind of interesting.

They paddled about 20km, 5 hours, out to the middle of the East China Sea on February 13th 2007 and got their confluence 32N 130E, upped on the site (with a dedication to Andrew McAuley). Congratulations guys.


“In Japan, all the land-based confluences have already been recorded (although the site accepts repeat visits), but most of the ones that lay in the sea within sight of land have not (get’em, kayakers!).”

So with that prodding here are the confluences near me, the red ones (on land) have been done as have all the ones within reasonable distance to the south.


The nearest is 38N 141E only 9km from Land, within reach and not yet done.



The other option, if I do paddle to Sado ga shima, is to do a detour to 38N 139E on the way, that would be a nice double although would significantly lengthen the crossing.



The problem with both of these locations however is that they are close to or (in the case of Niigata) in the middle of busy shipping routes: Sendai harbour and Niigata harbours respectively.

Of the others 39N 142E is 14km out into an exposed ocean where sight of land is not guaranteed, 39N 139E is 62km (way too far) but 40N142E is just 5km out, doable and near(ish) to the new, highly anticipated Aomori Museum of Art by Aoki Jun (an architect I admire greatly) that I want to visit before leaving Japan.

I also need a GPS!

By the way Rik and Leanne are totally hard core: they left at 2:40am paddled 4oklicks in rising winds, missed squid boats by 50m, got back at noon then taught English, their day job, in the afternoon. Respect.

Indian kayak trip

March 13, 2007

Vedharajan Balaji, director of OMCAR, wrote a letter to Paddling Instructor who posted a picture of the lady paddle float, which was picked up by On Kayaks and I saw (it’s like spaghetti).


This is him, from this newspaper article and the letter V.Balaji wrote to Paddling Instructor:

Yes, it has been in my dream to make an adventurous journey in the sea, after I saw the program of Justine’s kayak expedition in the east coast of Russia in National Geographic Channel (if you know her, say my hello).

In 2005, when I went for a mangrove conservation training program, I met Mr. Dominic from International Tree Foundation, UK. After my seminar on coastal conservation he was impressed and we had a few minutes chat – I told him I wish to make a kayak expedition, but i did not know how to ride it, roll it, its cost and I never seen before except in the TV. I was confident that the kayak will surely attract the people here as a tool to talk about the value of protective fragile, coastal ecosystems of tamil nadu (coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses).

When I was in Germany in July 2006, I spend some time to rent a kayak in an enclosed bay at Baltic Sea and paddled it for a km myself – which was like a child walking first time.

Then, Dominic took a great effort in UK – he made a car rally with his friends from UK to France to collect money, I selected the sea kayak through websites and started to read the kayak lessons through internet.

Dominic (690 UK pounds +300 UK pounds) and I paid nearly 24,000 Indian rupees for Indian customs clearance. October – November 2006 is the training session and December 2006 the expedition start.

I am very grateful to Mr. Dominic and his friends, I have to be responsible to teach the children in the village on marine conservation, and paddle the kayak to next village – as a way to prove it.

Going to a village school today afternoon…

Yours truly,

What was interesting for me was the reach of media, its ability to change people the world over. I think someone who knows Justine Curgenven should say hello for Vedharajan Balaji.

You can read more about the work of OMCAR like the Mangrove Cleaning project and there is a downloadable pdf of the kayak expedition. 600km.

omcasr map

This the last line from the mangrove cleaning page which also includes a description of ‘ghost fishing’:

It may be a small work, which is unknown to each person who has thrown at least a water pocket inside mangroves but OMCAR volunteer team will clean those places, in every 6 months – when the outer world don’t know what is happening to a volunteer student’s hand while picking a broken bottles, inside dense bushes of fragile mangroves.

Warm water under a red bridge

March 10, 2007


Warm water under a red bridge is the title of a Japanese movie by Shohei Imamura that is sexually weird, allegorical and fascinating. It is also my first kayaking trip of 2007.

As it was my first trip I decided to stay in the bay with the protection of almost flat calm water. The water was surprisingly warm though (about 10-12degrees I guessed) although the air temperature was only about 4 or 5 brrrr. There was a light wind, 8-10kmph, and although my kayak does okay in medium winds in a light wind it weathercocks so I spent a lot of my time edging and paddling on one side trying to go in a straight line. The photos that follow show some the aspects of Matsushima bay.


A row of small fishing boats, moored against bamboo poles, with huge outboard motors (smallest in the row was 75hp). I recently saw an exhibition of photographs from the bay 30 years ago and it was so different – all wooden boats, hardly any concrete. It made me realise that the uglification of Japan didn’t happen, it is happening now. More on this another time.


It was a very low tide which expose dthe fact that, outside of the dredged routes for the sighteseeing boats you could just about walk across some parts of the bay at low tide. Above the oyster farms.


And here stacks of unused scallop shells which are waiting to be seeded and farmed.


There are hundreds of these shellfish beds some in quite interesting states of repair.


This is a panoramic of three pictures stitched together using autostitch (highly recomended program). Autostitch is all the more impressive when you consider that I was floating (no tripod) and that there was at least 3secs between each picture (my mobilephone camera…)


Anyway the pictures was to show the cocklers, 14 of them in a row all over 60 years old (but that’s too much detail for the internet). What will happen to activities like this when this generation passes? There are so many things like this in Japan that are only done by the over 60’s.

Although Matsushima is famous for the shellfish most peeople come for the view around the bay. It is one of Japan’s Three most scenic places

the wave

with crazy rock formations like this one Yoroi-Jima (also known as the wave)


from the front.

sightseeing boats

The bay is busy with sightseeing boats running every 30 minutes around the bay (which makes for a slightly hairy crossing near the harbour).

weird rocks

There are some very beautiful rock formations


wave shapes and undercuts


I particularly like the tide colours.

Matsushima 松島 means “pine island” and most of these islands have pine trees hanging on top, often in quite extreme locations.


This one (attached to land by the red bridge) also contains a shrine.


On the way back I stopped by the sailing club. The building in the background was designed by Hitoshi Abe a famous, locally based and in my opinion brilliant architect (though this bulding is not his best).

kayak covers

This is the stack of kayaks of the local kayak club (don’t you want one of those kayak covers?). I had attempted to contact them, so I could use their kayaks and get involved with the club, but after nosing around for a few weeks gave up. But today I met the main guy and his sidekick – they had “buzzed me” in a fishing boat earlier and when I landed they came to say hello. Old guys and very friendly, I just about understood them… They invited me to go kayaking with them sometime and I got their business card. Afterwards I felt a bit bad that I wasn’t more respectful (more bowing was required from me) but I was tired and trying to drink my hot chocolate. They gave me some Wakame – a kind of seaweed – that they had been out collecting. My wife cooked it up (boiled) later – oishii!


This on my way home at 4.30, the dragon boat with a couple of smaller boats behind marking the busy channel that I had to cross.


A scaffolding tower in the sea, not sure of its function.

march 10
My route.

(Location map at various scales and zoomable yahoo map)

Rockpool Kayaks Review

March 9, 2007

Douglas Wilcox continues his excellent review of kayaks with one on the Alaw and Alaw Bach kayaks from Rockpool.

I want one – an Alaw Bach! I love the full plate footrest  and the built in neoprene at the side of the seat to take foam padding.

 copyright Douglas Wilcox

These are the kind of details that prove it’s designed by kayakers for kayakers but is now attracting others (Douglas notes the attraction for women…). The same way as sketchup was designed by architects for architects but is now opening up “3D for everyone” as google call it.

The only negatives for me are the hatch covers which are the same as on my kayak and I don’t feel they are secure enough. They have never come off but as they say it’s not the crime it’s the fear of crime… I’d like some clamp down hatch covers.

Also I don’t love the naughties graphics – that’ll age your kayak fast! Hopefully they do specials.

Thanks and credit to Douglas!

Endurance paddling is a mental excercise

March 7, 2007

In 2001 Ellen McArthur became the youngest person and fastest woman to sail around the world. On 7th February 2005 she became simply the fastest (71 days) and returned to the UK to a heros welcome. Her record has since been beaten by a Frenchman (historically there has been a great rivalry between French and English sailors).

But I think that the faster you do this kind of thing the easier it becomes. Robin Knox-Johnston was the first man to sail solo non stop around the world. He took ten and a half months to do it. (I recommend A Voyage for Madmen about this fascinating story). The thing about the first vendee globe ‘race’ was that it wasn’t really a race at all. Only two people finished and the leader, Bernard Moitessier, miles out in front decided at the home stretch that he didn’t want to finish and set out to circle the globe again.

The challenge of the round the world ‘race’ was a mental one – being alone at sea for a long time, with no one to talk to but yourself. Not a technical one. (Of course there is also the issue of how technology is changing the sport, Knox-Johnson and sailors of old had no satelite weather maps and e-mail communication, but that is another issue). So in my opinion the heart has been ripped out of sailing by the focus on speed. I would love to see a ‘go-slow’ yacht race, see who could take the longest to sail around the world.

And so to kayaking.


Isle of Man based Keirron (unusual spelling of my name) and Jeff are racing around vancouver island in a double while Joe O’Blenis (Scottish descent I’m guessing) is hoping to do it in a single in 3 weeks. The distance is roughly 1100 kilometers.

I don’t see the point in this kind of race, I mean I see the point of kayak racing: going fast, but when it becomes an endurance event it, like sailing, becomes probable that the faster you do it the easier it becomes. (I mean that with all due respect – I know it won’t be easy 1100km!!).

I guess kayaking can never be like sailing where you could in theory live without landing indefinately but still… It brings me back to Andrew McAuley’s crossing of the Tasman sea – it just makes it all the more amazing to think about what he tried to do. Alone at sea.

Lastly the South Georgia circumnavigation in 2005, bumped into again while researching this post, completed by Graham Charles, Marcus Waters and Mark Jones.


Situated in the furious fifties, a latitude shared only with Cape Horn and giving rise to the old mariners saying “in the forties there is no law – in the fifties there is no god”, South Georgia is one of the most dramatic landscapes and wildlife havens on the face of the earth.

“…a land doomed to perpetual frigidness, whose savage aspects I have not words to describe” Capt. James Cook

To circumnavigate this hostile and beautiful land in any vessel is a journey worthy of respect – to sea kayak around South Georgia is a world-class adventure and in an age where genuine adventure objectives are few – the circumnavigation of South Georgia remains a coveted world first.

(source trailpeak website)
This had been attempted twice. Once by a team of British Marines in 1991, who were forced back early into the voyage when they encountered adverse going with brash ice smashing one kayak, and again in December 96 when Wade Fairley and Angus Finney were forced by sea conditions to undertake a portage across the Shackleton Gap. The south coast remains unkayaked by anyone. Ever.

(source the new zealand team’s blog)


The New Zealand team beat the British team by a few weeks although the British Team did post the fastest time. Neither of these facts is interesting for me – just that they did what sounds like an incredible trip. Simon Willis podcast an interview with Jeff Allen (of Japan circumnavigation fame and one of the British team) and this is the MP3. In that Jeff Allen uses the term “scullduggery” to describe the New Zealanders changing their dates to turn it into a race… He also describes 15m (45ft) swells!