Archive for June, 2007

Surfing in the rain

June 30, 2007

It’s the rainy season in Japan. Up here it lasts from June 20th – July 20th give or take a few days. When it’s over it gets VERY hot, like 35 degrees, so the rain is to be enjoyed.

I went surfing again today. I only really have time for surfing at the moment – I go when my kids go for their nap and am back not long after they wake up. As my social work cousin says “3 kids under 5” (apparantly it’s one of the indicators used in social work to predict high risk families – whatever that means).

When I got to put in at 2:30 the waves were looking great, long curling spilling waves.


Avoiding the six or so surfers (none of them that good) I started playing around. It was great! The waves were a bit higher than last time – maybe 2-3 feet.

After about an hour though the waves started to change. I missed one wave and then got dumped on by a huge wave paddling back out, I managed to brace into it and stay upright but it popped my spray skirt and I sank – funny feeling. (One problem with the river kayak is that it doesn’t have any flotation). I swam the boat to shore bailed and then padled back out but didn’t make it again, got rolled and failed to roll in the soup.

Same again beach and bail. Then I noticed all but two of the surfers had gone and watching the surf realised that the incoming tide had changed the waves to shorter dumping waves.

Anyway I persevered and surfed for another hour (bailing out twice more). I also practiced rolling in the surf – waiting in the surf zone and then rolling just as a wave was about to break on me coming up through the aerated soup.

I also realised what is wrong with my ‘big kayak’ roll: practising with the river kayak has made me lazy and I’m not doing enough to get the beamy sea kayak over (the river kayak is just so much easier).

5 weeks left in Matsushima, then 1 week in Tokyo then back to Scotland…

car and river kayak

ps I bonded my paddle together with an epoxy type resin and it worked really well – no hint of movement. But it is now a 30 degree feather fixed paddle that I can’t take home with me.


Crocodile attacks Sandy Robson’s kayak

June 29, 2007

Following the link upped by kayak quixotica I read the story about Sandy Robson’s June 5th (day 162 of her round Australia expedition) encounter with a large crocodile following several nights of croc anxeity (as prey):

“The wind was producing a bit of wave action onto a steep beach and the water was not clear so I thought I would go a little further and explore for a more favourable landing. I paddled along next to the big granite rocks on Villis Point and rounded the point to find the perfect sheltered beach with campsite potential on the headland. Around the point the water was sheltered and calm. The beach would be a fantastic landing. Then as I paddled in, I heard Dave Winkworth’s voice in my head. It was him talking about the Gulf, “Crocs like calm water”…I paddled a few more strokes and noticed a few mangroves on the inside of the point. The voice in my head, “Shit! Mangroves”. I dismissed them because there were not many and rationalised that it would be ok. Then SLAM! That sound changed everything… A sound like someone had just slammed two bricks together as hard as possible on the stern of my kayak. My heart rate accelerated. Adrenaline poured into my system. My voice in my head knew that it could only be one thing. I forced myself to turn my head to look. I saw a large croc with its head fully out of the water, jaws open and right on the back of my kayak. I think at this point I may have sworn – “F***!”. I certainly never thought to say Crikey!

Dave’s voice was in my head again “If you see a croc just paddle away”. I considered whether my situation would allow me to paddle out to sea, rather than be chased off the water and onto the shore. Bugger that! In order for me to paddle out of this bay and back out to sea I would have to face a big croc head on – not an option. I happily paddled as fast as I could away from gaping croc jaws and towards the beach. All I could think was “Please don’t get me, Please don’t get me, Please don’t get me, Please don’t get me…” all the way to the beach. Actually I don’t think I just thought it, I said it out loud like some kind of mantra. I did not know if I would be able to pull my spray deck loop, leap out and run up the beach fast enough. This is the place where I knew I would be the most vulnerable to an attack. I took a glance behind to see if I had a croc on my tail. Shit where is it? The bow of the kayak hit the sand and I already had the spray deck off and was running up the beach, thankfully without getting tangled up in my paddle leash. No croc chased behind me so I was able to relax a little and hurriedly pull my kayak up out of the danger zone. Then I saw it in the bay arching its back, puffing itself up and fully displaying its tail. This had certainly been a territorial attack from a large male croc.”

Read the rest of the entry; the croc continues to harrass her and she has to portage out, then sets up camp to decide what to do. I obviously can’t imagine how frightning that must have been!

image from the steve irwin mosaic tribute site

image source 

The late Andrew McAuley also writes about a crocodile encounter in the same area:

“I was momentarily paralyzed as I sat bolt upright in my kayak. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The crocodile, that was not much shorter than my 5.8 metre kayak, did not appear to hesitate as it started swimming towards me. Fortunately I was close to shore. Unfortunately there were only rocks to land on. Keeping an eye on the crocodile swimming towards me I managed to catch a small wave into the rocks. When the cruel sound of gel-coat and fiberglass scraping off the bottom of the kayak brought me to a halt I quickly bailed out. When I turned around the crocodile was on the next wave in behind me. Using myself as bait I attracted the crocodile away from the kayak. When it seemed to lose interest in me, I ran back to my kayak and reluctantly pushed it back into the water. I had to keep moving so as not to run out of water. It was another three days before I reached South Goulbourne Island and spoke to another person about the encounter…

The strong wind had picked up from the southwest and was blowing me into the mangroves. Keeping a very keen eye out for crocodiles I decided to change course and make the most of the wind. All of a sudden there was a loud ‘BANG’ at the back of my kayak. My heart sank and I had a sickening feeling in my stomach, as I looked around expecting to see a set of large jaws crushing the end of my kayak. To my relief I could only see a dark shadow of a shark swim away from my rudder. My paddling speed picked up after that encounter.”

Australia eh?

A LINK to a news story about a canoeist / fisherman knocked into the water and ‘taken’ in 2005 plus a list of other attcks in recent years.

Paddling Lexicon

June 29, 2007

is a site with lots of definitions of… well… paddling lexicon. Most of them serious, some less so:

Kayak [] n. 1. an oblong banana shaped boat with a hole in the bottom from which the occupant dangles.  Can be propelled the wrong way up by experts. (definition courtesy of Pete Knowles)

Surfing small waves

June 27, 2007

I think I finally got it today – how to surf properly.

I got to the put-in at 4.30pm (leaving work an hour early) and had two hours on my own before the first surfers turned up. The surf was small 1-2 feet, but I realised perfect for my level. I surfed a small break over a sand spit about 150m out which allowed about 100m runs before the wave petered out. This was part of the reason for ‘getting it’ I think as at the end of every wave I wasn’t beached! It was great fun.

The key I think is to paddle like billyo to get on the wave and stay in front of the pile so you don’t broach. Once you are up to speed it’s an amazing feeling and I was able to look around for the first time, skiming along the green part of the wave with the pile behind and in control.

Well mostly in control. I got trashed three times and failed to roll – partly because of the surf but mostly I think my paddle which is now loose and spinning around in my hands. Need to get some loctite anerobic glue (used for thread locking should work on my steel shaft) although as I looked around for it I found the sumo stuff – maybe that’s the one for me!

sumo glue

As I was paddling around getting on waves, punching through etc I was thinking what an idiot to be surfing with this broken paddle but it was also good practice in a way – being so aware of paddle blade position.

When the surfers turned up it was instructive watching how they did it and I realised that surfing is much cooler and more interesting than surf kayaking. These guys are just so self sufficient – no masses of saftey equipment for them – just a board and shortie wetsuit…

The water was amazingly warm in the wet suit (though chilly without) and the weather was weird – 20km inland it was sunny and hot (26C) but getting the train home suddenly it got cold and foggy (unusual for here) with about 15kmph winds.

I finished up at 7:30 as the light was starting to fade. Tired and happy.

Again no pictures.

Marcus Demuth around Ireland

June 27, 2007

Marcus Demuth is paddling around Ireland he is currently stuck on an island called Inisheer after a number of hard days into gale force winds. The posts are interesting but I want to see the pictures!

 June 22nd

Smerwick to Magharee Island, 22 Miles 

Again strong headwinds. Got up at 4.00 AM to get the morning flood out of the natural harbor of Smerwick, but winds and wave were too large to get me out. It was blowing Force 6 right into the harbor, with 6-7 feet breaking waves in my face. I turned around, and had the second close shark encounter in the bay. I was able to make more pics of the shark. Thomas saw the shark as well, and estimated it 2-tons, and at about 20 feet. The winds calmed a little down in the evening, but still headwinds, but I left and paddled close to dusk, reaching Magharee Island. Magharee Island was nice, but a tough landing on cliffs, and I had to carry the kayak a 100 feet up steep cliffs in order to get it away from the swell and tides … not so swell!  Now 478 Miles away from Dublin.

List of kayaking accidents

June 26, 2007

A slightly morbid but instructive list of kayaking accidents this year, some of them fatal, throughout the world.


May 8, 2007 – An Atlanta man died off the coast of South Carolina when his and his friend’s kayaks were swept away, news reports stated. The pair were out kayak fishing off Seabrook Island near Charleston when sub-tropical depression Andrea moved in. They were caught in 50 kmh winds and strong currents that swept them out to sea. The friend was rescued suffering from hypothermia 18 hours and 25 miles away. Stephen Lee, 27, died.

Assessment: Here is a classic case of not paying attention to weather forecasts. Even if a sub-tropical depression had not been anticipated in weather forecasts – hard to believe – a VHF radio and monitoring the marine weather channels would have prevented this tragedy. Paying attention to the weather is the simplest way to avoid danger.

Not all the “assessments” are as clear as this and the author makes some statements that are questionable at best. But still worth a read.

Also of interest:

This link is to a story by the friend and paddling partner of a kayaker that drowned in Maine, USA in May 2007.


June 26, 2007

Had this picture been of anything else I would be happy with it but as it is a portrait I’m slightly embarassed to post it. Still what can you do – a partial reflection in the car.


and from the same set of analog pictures, this one; 4km out to sea looking back towards land from my June 2nd trip.

4km out to sea

Flat but choppy and warm

June 24, 2007

I still don’t have a new waterproof camera so no pictures sadly.

The sea was flat with less than a foot of swell but with some wind blown chop and pretty warm. I spent 4 hours paddling around, fooling around in the water. I brought my carbon fibre racing paddle to practice with – felt funny but I got how it works.

I was also keeping a look out for a spot to practice the method of landing on a rocky cliffy shore that Marcus Demuth wrote about:

“Nigel taught us ‘landings in hostile environments’, which was by far my favorite new thing I learned. To land on a rock, or in a cliff-like coast, the kayaker clips himself to his own kayak with his tow rope, then slips out of the kayak and swims to, and finally climbs on, the rock with his paddle in his hand. He then places his paddle and himself above the high water line and crashing waves, and pulls his kayak up to himself on the rock with the tow line. I could not have been more impressed by this technique, and was eager to try it when it came to my turn. To launch, you let the kayak slide back into the water, sending it off with a good push, then, Yours Truly jumps off the rock into the Irish (or any other) Sea, gets back into the kayak with a re-entry roll, and then clip yourself off your boat.”

And also a place to do a seal launch from.

seal launch photos from jackson kayak

I found a perfect seal launch spot that could double as the landing spot. The only problem is that it is pretty high – 4m off the water (no where near as high as the above pictures though!) – which makes hauling the kayak up pretty hard work and also will take some bottle to do my first seal launch from…

Just 6 weekends left in Japan before we go back to Scotland for good so I may well run out of time.

I spent a lot of time in the water today pratcising various things. I started off rolling pretty well but my blade was sinking too deep so I tried to make some corrections. Sod’s law I then failed to roll. I tried a rentry and roll and failed at that too. I then tried a cowboy rentry but the kayak was too full of water and too unstable. I swam the kayak into shore – noting how easy it is for the kayak to get out of reach and how fast it moves away from you when you’re swimming – bailed and paddled back out. I then failed again twice more at rolling to my great surprise and frustration. I thought I had that roll nailed down and was really supposed to be practicing my offside roll. Anyway I took the opportunity to practice the paddle float rentry and various methods of sliding ito the kayak. I think my failure might have been related to the broken paddle as at one point I felt the blade twist and then slice through the water.

It is good to get this kind of shock though makes you realise that its probably complacency that kills most kaykers.

The difference between Scotland and Japan

June 19, 2007

I’m just back from a week in Scotland interviewing for a few jobs. The difference between Scotland and Japan came across very strongly:

today in Matsushima

today in Edinburgh

Above Japan below Edinburgh (and the temperature has risen from the 9.5degrees I saw). I am now unhappy about going back. To make matters worse since I left the sea temperature has risen to 20! That’s at least five (but more like eight) degrees above Scotland’s max sea temperature.

Campsite Kinkasan and Ajishima

June 7, 2007

This is by request.

There is a campsite opposite Kinkasan which is run by the town of Ayukawa. It is very cheap, super clean, beautiful (on a steep hillside with views across to Kinkasan) and quiet. Howevere due to its location its best to drive there – a good 30 minute walk or 10minute taxi drive from Ayukawa.

Map of the location

There is also a campsite on Ajishima. I will try to post more when I know.

Camping is not allowed on Kinkasan due to the deer.

For kayakers its also possible to camp on some beaches but care is required as the exposed coast makes some of the beaches dangerous. After a night you could find the conditions changed and much more serious surf and sea conditions to deal with.

The Arctic Ocean

June 7, 2007

From Explorers Web

Arctic image

The Arctic is one of the world’s seven seas. Its top is frozen and the floating ice is around 16 million sq. km, (greater [in size] than the US), shrinking in summer to 9 million sq. km. As the ice shrinks, open water leads expose the black water… The leads are not deep, but the ocean in them is. If you fall into a lead, up to 4000 meters of dark, cold water will suck you down.

The main obstacles to an Arctic crossing expedition are moving ice floes, negative ocean drift, pressure ridges and open water leads. Two major circulation patterns for Arctic sea ice are present: the Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre. The Transpolar drift carries ice westward from the Russian Arctic, the Beaufort Gyre is located north of the Alaskan and Canadian coast, and it rotates in a clockwise motion, exiting in the Farm Strait. At some points this ice migration will carry the expedition backwards and away from the pole.

On certain occasions; storms, in the late spring and during a full moon – the Arctic ice brakes [sic] up with peculiar sounds building up to terrifying alarm. Thin sea ice moves up and down with wave action as you walk on it. “Full moon inferno,” is an event caused by the tidal changes brought on by the full moon. As the ocean rises, the ice breaks up and the ice floes collide with a tremendous force.

The Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre sound like a lyrical Scottish poem and a good cheese respectively. Cool names. You can read more about these currents and about some disks thrown out onto the Beaufort Sea that crossed the Pole to land on a Scottish beach 10 years later here.

Steve Rogers

June 6, 2007

Captain America

The name shared with Captain America seems to inspire it’s owner to be a photographer.

Steve Rogers in the UK
Steve Rogers nudes

Steve Rogers taking amazing kayak images with Pacific Horizons

Pacific Horizons is a blog about a filmaker making a sea kayak video in the pacific Northwest (I take that to mean the US and Canada). The pictures are amazing. The prose short and sootably North American:”Kuthe was absolutely ripping it up at Skooks…here he is getting his carve on”.

The place is Skookumchuck tidal rapids in British Columbia. Image gallery here but the sea kayak images at Pacific Horizons are even better.

Crossing the ditch

June 5, 2007

The two Australians planning the cross the ditch from Australia to New Zealand are going in this kayak. For some reason I had thought they were going in a normal kayak but I guess that would be impossible for two people, even in a double.  They had planned to leave in January 2007 but for technical reasons missed their weather window and are instead planning to do the trip later this year, presumably November / December.


Another broken paddle

June 4, 2007

MontBell have sold me another duff paddle. I’m really pissed off. Here is what happened:


The plastic joint which clamps the two-piece paddle shaft together has sheared off, I think it happened while I was surfing or maybe rolling. Obviously a design fault – the material is not up to the kind of stresses placed on it. The paddle still has about 250mm of interconnecting sleave and this junction point only fixes the amount of feather but I now have a paddle where the feather can move fairly freely around in your hands.

I have two choices, take it back or glue it together at a fixed feather.

I will do the later because MontBell, in common with Japanese retailers, are horrible about stuff like this and I don’t want them to say “just this once” like they did last time. In the UK there would be no questions asked: a full refund or at the very least a new paddle. Here, well I will be give accustaory looks – like I’m upsetting the wa.

That’s two paddles I’ve bought from them and both have broken. So my review of MontBell is bad and poor.

the other broken paddle story

There is never just one reason

June 2, 2007

I failed today. I was aiming to reach the confluence point 38N 141E that I blogged about in March (I even upped my plan to the confluence project site).


This was my put-in at shibatahama with the ubiquious cars parked on the beach: all surfers.

The confluence is about 9km out into the Pacific, I got about half way out and decided to turn back. Of course there is never just one reason for failure:

1. The gps I had borrowed for the occasion:


(This is it showing the required WGS 84 protocol that is a requirement of the confluence project). The menu is in Japanese and I couldn’t get it to display location in Lat/Long without setting a “way-finding” flag, a double button push that would show that point “fixed” i.e. would not change as I moved so led to me pushing and cancelling each time to find my location. I was concerned that after another hour of paddling I wouldn’t be able to get the close enough (within 100m) to the point with “all zeros”.

2. I couldn’t remember how far a minute was in km (1.852 km). In fact my whole lat/long navigation was poorly considered and researched.

3. The waterproofing for the gps consisted of a clear zip-loc bag inside a waterproof map case. This combination was leading to fogging that made the reading difficult to see and caused problems both in following a heading and in reading the lat/long location safely. I was worried that as the seas were picking up I wouldn’t be able to find the confluence safely.

4. I was late to the put-in and so missed the ideal tide configuration (though tide wasn’t huge so not that significant).

5. However the wind was. Because I was late I was having to paddle into more wind, forecast at 5knots in the morning rising to 15 knots in the afternoon from the SE: ideal for blowing me home but not great on the way out.

6. I promised my wife I’d only do it ideal conditions and this wasn’t ideal. It was a nice sunny day and the waves weren’t huge but the wind was creating some chop, white horses and the occasional breaking wave.

7. My paddle was broken (not fatally but not ideally either) and I didn’t have a back up. More about that later.

8. I got pretty wet breaking through some biggish surf on the way out and wasn’t super confident getting back in safely.

rip tide through surf

None of these reasons was enough to make me stop on their own, but added together I did stop, turn around and head back in. I paddled for an hour solid on the way out, which by my reckoning was 5km out, and only about 25 minutes with the wind at my back and surfing the waves on the way home.

It was an interesting experience for me: setting out alone with nothing in front but the ocean as far as the eye can see. I spent most of my time second guessing my decision making: is this the right thing to do, is this safe, what happens if…

There is something about the wide open sea that is disconcerting, I don’t know if it’s just me, perhaps so, and that has been my fascination and with people who go off into it alone. I have all the more respect for what Andrew McAuley set out to do.

I’m sure my failure was also partly to do with my kayak, had I been able to paddle faster in a more ocean worthy kayak I might have gotten there before I had time to get nervous…

When I got back all the surfers who had been on the beach had gone. From the sea the surf looked really big and, hitting at an angle, the waves were zipping dramtically along the tetrapod sea defences. I got a bit nervous that there was some reason why all the surfers had gone – the tide had changed at 11:30am did that mean dumping waves now?

Anyway I was quite please with my entry in that I stayed dry! I came in along the edge of a riptide that I had taken out. The rip was keeping the surf small and manageable. At one point have broached on a wave I found myself turned around and heading out into the surf in the rip – it was very strong. Fortunately another wave came through which I back paddled onto and surfed in bum first. Happily no one there to see.

rip tide 2

This rip (above – between the surf and the tetra pods) was pretty strong and so I decided not to empty the kayak and fool around in the surf.

a proper tube

The surf looked great though – even some proper looking tubes.

I took some pictures with my film camera which, if they are any good, I will post later (*here*). I’ve not decided whether to try for this confluence again: it wasn’t great fun, it was a four hour round trip drive and I’ve only got 10 weeks left in Japan… However I would also be sad to leave it un-done.

*EDIT* What I should have read in advance, a good account by Douglas Wilcox of GPS use and explanation of the “GOTO” function that I assumed would be part of my borrowed unit but wasn’t. L I N K