Saturday, January 30, 2010

Utrecht's landscape like a fairytale...

Sorry: it's not about kayaking, again ;-)
A few degrees of frost and a thin layer of snow turned the grubby, muddy Utrecht of last week in a bright white world over night. I got op early this morning to pick up Alex to do a MTB-tour in the snowcovered woods of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. Biking under the clear blue sky in the virgin snow was a magnificent experience. The combination of hard frozen underground and a few centimetres of snow made biking hefty and the track partly quit technical and slippery: a bit of a balancing act, good for training MTB-skills.

The conditions for kayaking here are bad: ice, ice, ice... As the thaw set in and it started raining last week I got a little hope it would soon be possible to paddle in Woerden again. Yet, temperatures have fallen and for the second half of next week a new serious cold period is expected. It looks as if my paddling break is going to last a bit longer...
(No outdoor paddling for me since 6 weeks now, in 15 years Woerden this hasn't happened before!).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Your personal Seakayak Calendar

Since early January the schedule of the 2010 NKB-seakayakactivities is online on the website of the NKB (click on discipline -> zeevaren -> activiteiten). Subscribers to the "Mededelingen van de NKB commissie zeekajakvaren" did already receive a paper copy of the program and (can) get a reminder by e-mail (the so called "BaZk") about two weeks for every single tour. Recently Ad added an extra service. He created a Google Calender-version of this years NKB-seakayak-program. This Google Calender opens numerous new possibilities: events are directly linked to detailed information, you can copy-paste the Calender in a website (like I've done here) and (when you create a Google-account) it really starts: you can integrate it in your own Calender, combine it with moon and tidal calenders, sunrise and sunset-times, the calenders of your local kayak-club or other providers of seakayak-trips, with your personal-, business- and/or family- calender and share it all with your friends (or with the world-wide-world?). I get a bit dizzy of all the possibilities Google offers - it's too much for me. Anyway, I admit that most Google Apps work quit intuitive. Ad explains on his weblog how to work with the Google NKB zeekajak vaarkalender (in Dutch).

Don't think "who's busy with a kayak calender when all waterways are covered with ice?" Obviously a lot of people are: within 3 weeks about 30 entrances only for the Vlieland-seakayakweek (which takes place in September!). You shouldn't wait to long if you want to be sure of participation. For the Anglesey-weeks, the Zeeland-course and the Weekend-clinics the rush is less, but also for these activities: I wouldn't wait too long with subscribing!

Disclaimer: the Google NKB zeekajak vaarkalender is in the experimental stage - "official" publication of NKB-activities is supplied by the known NKB-media (website, Kanosport, Mededelingen, BaZk, etc.). But knowing Ad: the Google Calender will be perfectly serviced and updated! Feedback on the calender is welcome!

Monday, January 25, 2010

In the newspaper....

A kayaker from Woerden (setting up for Kingumut naatillugu) pictured in the local newspaper of Hardenberg: Dagblad de Stentor published an article about the rolling event in Rheezerveen last weekend.

More pictures of the rolling clinics in the Picasawebalbum of Freek.

A Spanish dance in the surfzone

Manolo Pastoriza is kayak guide in Galicia (=the North-western region of Spain well known for its stunning coastline, fully exposed to the elements of the Atlantic). No wonder Manolo is an expert in paddling heavy seas (and btw: he's a an excellent Greenland-roller too!). Manolo recently published 2 fascinating video-clips of loopings he made in Galician surf on his weblog.
Click here for the video of the forward loop, click here for the video of the backward loop.

My associations with seakayak-footage like this altered a bit after the looping with unhappy ending (;-() that I made some months ago. Respect for the forces of the sea is added to the simple idea of having fun while looking for challenges under rough conditions. I became a bit more aware of the risks involved - to paddler and material. Manolo's kayak is obviously more robust than my late Valley AA.... Anyway: playing in surf is good fun, looping with a seakayak is a great adrenaline rush. When you roll up and paddle on afterwards it's just a good story. Keep on training.

The picture above this post beautifully demonstrates how to enter a powerful wave: Manolo keeps his body down, the paddle parallel and close to the hull of the kayak - don't try to fight it with your paddle: you'll lose!

Picture: Manolo Pastoriza

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Greenland rolling in Rheezerveen - Palluussineq

Demo: chest sculling - Palluussineq (= Greenlandic for "lying on one's belly").
All pictures in this post by Ido van der Meer.

This Saturday I visited the Greenland Rolling Clinic in Rheezerveen organised by Freek and Peter. It was a pleasure to see so many people having fun learning rolling in the traditional Greenland style. I couldn't resist jumping in the water myself: I joined Peter/Hotwiredbrain 's demo of competion-rolls (it was big fun to do synchro rolling with such a talented roller!) and assisted a little with the instructions.

Tahe Marine Greenland kayaks were used for the rolling clinic. Arend Bloem supplied the clinic with a brandnew copy of the latest version of this kayak: the Touring. I took this unique chance to compare the rolling performance of the Tahe Greenland SC, LC and Touring kayaks. The only difference between the SC and the LC is the size of the cockpit and the type of the seat. The Greenland SC and LC offer a seating position quit similar to a an original Greenland skin-on-frame: a snug fit with the legs stretched flat out. Hard chined, just 50 cm width and a low back-deck make these kayaks easy to roll - I would say they are "out of the box" ready for the Qaannat Kattuffiat - Greenland rolling championships. The cockpit of the LC (large cockpit) has the same size as the 0cean cockpit of the Valley Anas Acuta. The cockpit of the SC (small cockpit) is about 10 cms shorter. Though there is no noticeable difference in rolling performance, I preferred the SC: with a slightly higher seat and the foam Peter had customized his kayak, it just fitted me slightly better. In the LC I sat deeper and a bit more loose with my legs from the deck of kayak, so I had to lift up my legs a bit, which resulted in the inner cockpit-rim pressing in the upper leg. But this is simple to avoid by adding a small block of foam under the deck just in front of the cockpit rim.
The T (touring) version of the Tahe Greenland was a pleasant surprise: Tahe added a bit more volume to the Greenland, made it 3 cms wider and added a large keyhole cockpit to the Greenland to create a more all-round seakayak. Compared to most British style seakayaks it still is a relative narrow, hard chined, low volume kayak. And regarding rolling performance: it's also a perfect rolling kayak. In direct comparison to the Greenland LC and SC it requires a bit more effort to roll the layback-rolls. The difference is very subtle, let's say it requires a bit more "focus" sliding the body on the back deck in the finishing stage of the roll. For forward finishing rolls (like assammik masikkut and norsamik kingukkut) the Touring even has a little advantage compared with the LC and SC: the higher position of the knees makes it easier to recover tucked forward ending with your nose on the front deck.
Overall: the rolling performance of the Greenland T reminded me of my late Anas Acuta ;-( which has a reputation as a good rolling kayak. The performance of the SC and LC is on the next level - it comes close to a dedicated rolling SKOF-kayak.

Thanks Peter and Freek for the perfect organisation of this event! I enjoyed it very much - Very inspirational - It's time I get myself a replacement for the Anas Acuta and to pick up training Greenland rolling again. Next challenge: who of us is the first to perform Tallit Paarlatsillugit Timaannarmik? Peter got close to it yesterday!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Skating on "natuurijs: "Het was machtig mooi werk..."

This afternoon the melt-down began. Ice-skating is over for a while: temperature is rising, ice is getting soft. This morning Alex and I didn't want to lose a single moment so we rushed to Loosdrecht to get the last opportunity to skate on natural ice. The quality of the ice wasn't great: the soft surface and lot's of cracks and scratches made skating a hard and also risky job. But to speak with the unfortunate Erben (check the end of the video): "it was awesome..."

We skated the track 5 times: 35,8 km.

A word of thanks to the volunteers of the IJsclub de Vijfde Plas, who worked hard to facilitate the skating this week.
This morning was really the last chance to skate on the Loosdrechtse Plassen: the ice-track is closed since this evening, there are no more skating tours organised this weekend: the ice has become very unreliable. But winter isn't over yet: waiting for the next ice-age...

Friday, January 08, 2010

Time out for kayaking...

I did my best to fight back, but winter has won: I haven't been kayaking outdoors since the Biesbosch trip. Check this video: forget paddling on inland water ;-(

No paddling since 3 weeks and desperately looking for an alternative. Ice-skating is appealing, but snow hinders the formation of good ice. There is hardly any possibility to skate a safe tour on the lakes and canals around here. But this morning I finally skated with 2 friends on "natuurijs". Yesterday-evening we got "inside information" that the local IJsclub was preparing a skating-track on the Loosdrechtse Plassen. We started early and "illegaly" (before the track was opened) on a different side of the lake, first skated on unprepared ice and later in the morning we joined the tour of the IJsclub. We enjoyed 35 km skating in magnificent Dutch winter-landscape.

Note: ice skating outside the prepared tracks is always tricky and these days it's definite very risky: a layer of snow on the ice covers bad spots! For information on where to skate safe; check the dedicated Natuurijs-site of the KNSB.

From a different perspective: winterpaddlers spotted...

Mister Kloet lives next to the harbour of Geertruidenberg. When he looked out of the window of his living room, early in the morning of December the 20th, he was surprised to see two cars arriving, both loaded with a yellow kayak on the roof-rack. Not a common sight in winterly Geertruidenberg. Watersport - wintersport? Mr. Kloet made a picture of the paddlers putting their kayaks in the water.

The paddlers were just in time: just a few hours later, the last piece of open water was covered with ice...

Thanks Rien for mailing the pictures!
It's a small world.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Fireworks tested...

Happy 2010!

This year I celebrated New Year with friends and family in a fishermen-village at the Dutch coast. New Year-Fireworks in places like this are special: like anywhere there is a lot of Chinese show fireworks fired, but in addition to that, night-sky turns red here by the bright light of dozens of parachute distress flares. The skippers discard expired distress pyrotechnics by launching it at New Year's Eve.

It was a perfect occasion to practice using the flares I normally carry with me while I am seakayaking, and to test the reliability of these signals. I tried an Parachute Flare (exp. 2008-10), a Red Handflare (exp. 2008-11) and my Nico Signal (a popular pen flare revolver):
- the parachute flare - the rocket was launched powerful, but the flare did burn only for a few seconds;
- the red handflare - didn't ignite at all...
- the Nico Signal: 5 catridges worked faultless, 1 failed.
Overall a disappointing performance. This time it was not more than "a pity" as I had hoped for more spectacle to amuse the kids, but in a real life emergency situation you just want your alarm signals to work!

It must be said that my little "test" in itself is not representative nor reliable: the signals I tried were old, well over the expiry date and have been exposed to a marine environment during many sea-kayak-trips over a lot of years. Salt water obviously has intruded (the ignition mechanism of the parachute flare was corroded). Which I still find strange because in general I transport the flares in the day-hatch of the kayak, or in a drybag behind the sea in the cockpit. Anyway, though it may look robust, the waterproof housing of the signals themselves offers only limited protection to the elements.
The reliability of the Nico Signal was remarkable - unlike the other flares my Nico Signal is continuously exposed to (salt) water, often even immersed in it: I want the Nico Signal in immediate reach, and it is attached by a lanyard on my Pdf, unprotected against the elements. NB: a Nico Signal is no substitute for a parachute flare because they only fire to about 30 or 50 meters and burn only for a few seconds.

"Lessons learnt":
- regular replace your distress-signals;
- always protect your flares against (salt) water (which stays awkward because you want them within reach. Having your flares packed away inside your kayak is quite pointless);
- always carry multiple flares;
- don't rely on one option - flares are part of a chain of alarm-systems, from simple means like a whistle, a mirror, over the cell-phone, to high tech devices like VHF-radio's and radio-beacons (EPIRB)...

All this is nothing new, though the performance of my old flares makes me seriously consider to add a SPOT to my alarm devises...