Archive for the 'General' Category

Polar bears in the Northwest Passage

July 26, 2007

The story of renowned kayak surfer Martin leonard III crossing the Northwest passage on a surf ski makes very interesting reading (scroll down to 2.14.2006)
“Traveling in heavy bear country is very intimidating, and traveling solo is even worse; there is no one to outrun!”

And Victoria Jason (the first woman to paddle solo the Northwest Passage) getting chased by a Polar Bear:
“At one point they had to paddle ferociously to keep out of reach of a polar bear swimming after them. When they had escaped from the bear, and spread a map out over the two kayaks, the bear suddenly reappeared and they again had to paddle, but now the bear was getting so close, Vicki could see her yellow kayak reflected in its eyes.”


Marcus Demuth made it around Ireland

July 23, 2007

On 19th July Marcus Demuth made it around Ireland. 1,085 Miles in 34 paddling days with 8 storm bound days and endless rain and bad weather. Only once in his blog does he mention seeing the sun! eek.

Anyway I can’t wait for the images.

The oshika peninsula

July 20, 2007

Previously I was asked about camping on the Oshika Peninsula – one of my favourite places in Miyagi and one of the best sea kayaking destinations in Japan. Yesterday while packing up our house to move back to Scotland I came across a leaflet from Oshika and Ayukawa- a conglomeration of the small villages and hamlets on the oshika Peninsula.

It’s in Japanese but should still be useful.

front cover

page 1

page 2

page 2

A previous post with descriptions about the oshika peninsula and kayaking trips here, here, here and here.

海の日 Japan’s national day of the sea

July 16, 2007

Today was a national holiday in Japan – marine day (umi no hi). It is Japan’s newest holiday [1996] – one of 20 national holidays. I didn’t go kayaking sadly, still in Nagoya visiting my inlaws.

The sea has been wild these last few days as the largest typhoon ever recorded in July hit Japan. I got soaked visiting the amazing island Naoshima near Kobe which has become an art island with probably the world’s most amazing art gallery the chichu art gallery by Tadao Ando.

This is the best building I have ever visited (I’m an architect and have visited a lot of buildings). Please go to Naoshima.

chichu means “in the ground”

Sea kayaking in Hokkaido

July 9, 2007

I think this kind of sums up the business of Sea Kayaking in Japan:
“Move through slowly to the great ocean with sea kayak. Sea kayak will give you healing time. Sea kayak has long body, so it has a feature to move straight and also have stability. Any age, first timer and experienced people, everyone can easy to enjoy sea kayak.”

At the Niseko Adventure Centre

Rafting with a sail

July 7, 2007

An interesting idea I think for a group – I guess you need at least 4 people for this to work:

“A tail wind meant that we could raft the boats together and hoist the purpose made sail. The sail is a sheet of tarpaulin with pockets for paddle blades in the top corners. These paddles are hoisted as masts by the front outside paddlers in the raft. Sheets from the top of the sail go back to the rear outside paddlers to take the strain of the sail. In this way we soon crossed the excellently named Hopeless Reach.”

posted by wanderings of a farmboy in Australia on a tour run by rivergods but sadly with no pictures of the sail or raft.

The same post goes on like this, next day:
“Although strong, the wind was behind us, so we rafted up again. The wind was so strong that we were physically not strong enough to hold the sail in place. Instead we hoisted our paddles in the air and this provided enough propulsion to move us at a descent speed.

After 2 hours of sailing like this we approached the Cape Peron. At this point Easterly waves started to meet the South-easterly waves we had been riding along. The resulting 2 metre of so seas on our aft quarter started trying to pull the raft apart. As the seas got bigger more ropes and eyelets snapped so that in the end most people were holding the kayaks together. One particularly large wave broke over the heads of the rear paddlers.

Just when we were at our most terrified we spotted a large dugong with her calf a short distance away. Our tribulations were forgotten briefly as we watched these rare and remarkable animals.

Eventually we were washed up on the more sheltered shoreline, where we broke up the raft, bailed out water and set off for Cape Peron.”

Souns interesting.

Sydney to Hobart

July 6, 2007

I’m very late but finally tracked Simeon Michaels down again.  He was quoted in this article talking about the disappearnce of Andrew McAuley back in February his comments seemed very good to me:

Mr Michaels did not want to speculate on the cause of Mr McAuley’s disappearance, but said exhaustion would have played a part.

“You spend a lot of time out on the ocean and it becomes really hard to focus (mentally). I can only imagine what it would be like after a month … Your thinking is not as sharp as usual. If you’ve been out on the water for 10 hours it’s really difficult to make a good decision.”

“What (Mr McAuley) was up against was the cumulative effect of a month of exhaustion and it looks like, without any damage to kayak, that that has caused whatever happened to happen.”

Mr Michaels, whose kayak is not set-up for sleeping, said he had 10 or 12 rest days since beginning his journey five weeks ago. He said he could not imagine paddling for 30 days without being able to rest or stretch properly.

“I find it really important to get out of the kayak and just stand up once a day. If I can pull in for a lunch break and just walk around, even for 15 minutes, that makes a huge difference to the next four hours’ paddling.

“The fact (Mr McAuley) can’t just get up and walk around would have been incredibly physically draining. Your body is not designed to sit and lie down.”

He finished his 2000km trip on March 21st.

route map sydney to hobbart

route map.

His blog has some interesting stories:

Thursday, 1st Feb:  Leaving Mallacoota

Pulling out of Mallacoota the Easterly was starting to build, and with a forecast 20 knot seabreeze and 4-6 foot of SE swell I was looking forward to a great day of wave riding.  The wind and swell built to 20 knots, then just kept building. Before I knew I was in a 30 knot “breeze” pushing an 8-12 foot swell.

The sea was a seething, heaving mass of whitecaps, waves were breaking all over my laden kayak, and with the endless beaches of this coast, there was nowhere to land.  I’d also made the mistake of packing my storm weather gear out of reach. By the time I neared Point Hicks I was cold and tiring, and hoping I could find somewhere to pull in.  It didn;t look good, in fact, the approach to Point Hicks was a horror show – waves exploding on the rocks of the point and on reefs well out to sea. With so much “action” it would would be easy to paddle straight onto a reef.  Shipwreck conditions. I gave the Point itself a wide berth, hoping to avoid outlying reefs, and also hopnig that  I would then be able to paddle back and find some shelter behind it.  Rounding the lighthouse I started to come into the wind shadow, but the swell was wrapping around headland and standing up in massive breakers before smashing into rocks.  Did I mention that it was low tide on the full moon? 

I was considering just paddling on through the night when I spotted a tiny cove wedged between rocks behind the headland.   Hoping to time the sets I cut across the swell, paddling for all I was worth, glancing over my shoulder waiting for the “armageddon” wave.  I made the shelter of the cove before anything came around the corner.  Later, I walked up to the lighthouse to warm up and shake out the tension. Seeing the fury of the ocean from this high vantage, I couldn’t believe I’d just been out there.  Towards dusk later the began to drop, and the close-out sets were replaced by the most perfect waves I’ve seen in a long time.  If only I had a surf board!

Instead I watched the waves peel unridden and golden in the sunset, ate a huge meal and had a great night’s sleep on a sand dune.

Friday 2nd February

Like most rivers,  the Bemm deposits lots of sand where it exits to the ocean,  and when river flow is low and the entrance closes, this leaves a shallow “bar” of sand out to sea, then a channel, then another bar on the shore. This gives you two sets of breakers to negotiate, with waves rising out of deep water to crash on the shallow bars.  Its much more difficult than your standard beach landing, a feature of this coastline which makes it so difficult to negotiate.

On the way in my timing was perfect.  I waited out the sets and rode in on a medium sized one, also avoiding being crunched in the smaller but nastier shorebreak.  

By the time I’d had a massive lunch, the tide had dropped a bit, and in addition to the big waves breaking out the back, the medium sized ones were now crunching down in the channel. That meant that there was no hanging around in the channel to time an escape between sets, I just had to go.  Having said that, the big ones out the back were mostly crumbling, with only the odd monster breaking top to bottom.

I got through the shorebreak, got through the channel, got over what I thought was the outside break. 

And then I saw it. 

The armageddon wave I’d avoided yesterday had found me. 

There was nowhere to go. In the hope that I could get over it I paddled for all I was worth, but it just had my name written on it. As the front of the kayak rose up the face in slow motion, I watched the lip curl over and come down on me from a huge height.  I was picked up like a toy, turned upside down, flung backwards, dragged underwater and pulled out of the kayak. 

Gathering my wits and possessions, I figured that the wave was such a freak that there probably wouldn’t be another breaking that far out.  Luckily I was right about that, and I managed to swim the kayak out, then I hopped up on the deck and paddled it with a very waterlogged cockpit past the breakers.  Safe and in the warm sunshine beyond the breakers, I was pumping out the cockpit and thinking what fun it had been when I saw two big gashes in the side of the kayak. The pressure of the wave had “creased” the kayak, and on one side the glass had split completely.  Leaving it structurally vulnerable, and taking on water. 

It was then that I was very grateful for my decision to swim the kayak out rather than go back in and start again.  There is almost no doubt that if I’d gone back through the channel and the shorebreak, the kayak would have broken up completely.

As it was, the Pittarak, famed for its toughness, had survived where just about anything else would have broken in half straight away.

Paddling those 20ks, water sloshing around my legs in a half smashed kayak, and a wrecked car to deal with in Eden, was a real low point in the trip.
Michaels arriving in Hobbart:

Simeon Michaels

For Sale SOLD

July 5, 2007

For Sale SOLD
One used kayak. plastic Dagger Charleston 15. Bought May 2006 Montbell Sendai for 145,000yen. For sale for 80,000yen. Will “throw in” a Harmony Feather Lock Paddle which cost 22,800yen new.



dagger charleston

profile view showing skeg down.


This detail not of my kayak (but other than colour it’s the same).

harmony paddle

The Harmony paddle’s “featherlock” mechanism broke so I epoxy glued the shaft together and it is now a one piece, fixed 30 degree feather. Otherwise it works fine.

The 2006 Montbell kayak catalog entry in Japanese (this kayak has been discontinued).

And the text from the catalog in Japanese. (English description available here)
457cm long 63cm wide with a 97x45cm cockpit. It weighs 26kg and can support up to 145kg. It has a simple skeg to aid tracking. It is very stable kayak suited to a larger frame person. However I am 163cm and weigh 64kg (i.e. small) and with a little foam padding, it fits fine.

The kayak is a great starter kayak. It is very comfortable, roomy and stable. I bought it so I could fish and take pictures in a stable kayak, but in fact ended up doing more adventurous things. I have surfed this kayak, learned to roll in it and had great fun paddling around Miyagi and Iwate.

The condition is very good: there are the usual scratches and scuffs on the bottom of plastic hull but no more than you would expect and none are deep or affect performance. The skeg works fine as do the footpegs, adjustable (and vey comfortable) seat, adjustable thigh braces and everything else is as new. I have installed foam knee braces and foam padding to the seat; these can be removed or adjusted easily. The internal foam bulkheads have pinholes to allow air expansion, and the rear bulkhead leaks slightly but it has been like this since I bought it and is manageable.

more pictures:

on beach

beach near Onagawa

rolling on a foggy day

rolling on a foggy day


Me in the kayak


At Izushima on a foggy day


Realised 2 more minor defects: firstly I lost the net bag that velcros to the back of the seat (after about a week of owning the boat) and secondly the kayak’s hull is deformed slightly where it is strapped to the roofrack – inevitable with plastic kayaks.

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)

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

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.