Monday, July 21, 2008

Something completely different...

The kayaks are swapped for bikes and internet access will be scarce - therefore it's going to be a bit quiet on this kayakblog the next weeks. In the middle of August I'll be back on the water again! See you!

Have a nice summer with a lot of paddling,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ariane ready for the Olympics

Arian Herde and Robert Bouten are the two Dutch Slalom-kayakers qualified for the Olympic-games in Peking. Watch Arianes' final fitness-test in this video of Volkskrant-TV. Test and video shots taken on the DWD-WW-track in Zoetermeer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scotland journey 5 - final: Lismore and Shuna Island

Early morning atmosphere in Loch Linnhe.

After visiting the Falls of Lora Govert and I had done all the highlights we planned. We were so lucky to have 2 more days left over and felt like another kayak-camping trip. Circumnavigating the Isles of Lismore and Shuna in Loch Linnhe was a fitting option. Starting point was the Pierhouse hotel at Port Appin - a perfect place to embark: with a easy accessible pebble beach direct in front of the car parking and the comfort of a good restaurant at start and finish of the trip (note: there is not much parking place in Port Appin, I won't advise it at busy days!).

Thursday was the first and only day during our Scotland-journey that it was clouded, raining an drizzling all day long. Yet it wasn't an unpleasant day - actually the drizzling atmosphere made the experience of the impressive scenery of Loch Linnhe, surrounded by the Scottish Mountains even more intense. Porpoises and seals accompanied us on our paddle. We headed from Port Appin south to Lismore Lighthouse where we had planned the first stop. Arriving at Lismore point however, it wasn't to appealing to get out there in the rain. The next few places to land (which are rather scarce at low tide) were all occupied by seals or seabirds we didn't want to disturb. Finally we paddled over 30 km's before we got out of the kayaks for an extensive break. Cooking water (Tea (Hans, Coffee (Govert))took a bit longer because the MSR-Whisperlite cooker needed an in the field repair. Sometimes these cookers refuse to work properly for some vague reason, but after repeated disassembly and assembly they always recover in the end.

After the break it was just 10 more kilometres to the Northern tip of Lismore, where we camped between the sheep. The next morning was fantastic - it had stopped raining, and while the clouds slowly disappeared, the impressive Scottish mountains around the mirror like Loch Linnhe appeared. Shuna is only a little isle - so there was no reason to hurry. Between Shuna and Port Appin lies the picturesque site of Castle Stalker. We arrived at the Pierhouse hotel before lunchtime. The hotel-manager welcomed us friendly in Dutch. It turned out she had worked in Leiden in the Netherlands in younger years. After unloading the kayaks, packing the car and changing clothes we celebrated the end of a fantastic journey with fresh seafood in the Pierhouse Hotel. Scotland has made a marvellous impression - we are devoted!

Lismore- Shuna

Click on the Picasa miniature for more pictures of Shuna and Lismore.

Thursday 5th June, 38 km, Port Appin - circumnavigating Lismore - no wind, rainy
Friday 6th June, 12 km, Lismore - Shuna Island - Port Appin - no wind

Scotland journey - 4: survival paddling in the Falls of Lora

It's about time to finish the series of reports of the Scotland-journey: meanwhile Scotland more than a month ago and the next vacation is coming in a few days... So here are the reports of the last two stages: first our morning-paddle in the Falls of Lora (Click on the link for detailed information about this marvellous playspot). Twice a day ebb and flood press the water of Loch Etive through the narrows under the Connel Bridge near Oban. At spring tides the tidal range is around 4 meters and roughly 45,000,000 cubic meters is finding it's way out. That's a lot of water with tremendous power.

The video of Nicampbell on Youtube shows more than words can. In Justine Curgenvens' video "This is the sea 3" you can admire some skilled seakayakers surfing on the Falls of Lora (the first shots of the TITS3-trailer are taken on the Falls of Lora, Axels' quote about his "wetted pants" refers to his wet exit in the falls). With this in mind the Falls of Lora were a must-do for us.
We timed the best ebb spring tide and went for it. It was absolutely awesome: the first two hours when the tide was full running. To be fair it was more "survival paddling" than "playing with the waves", but what a fun it was, surfing, bracing, rolling! It was a completely different experience than I am used to paddling in surf at sea. The water is salt and the sea is the scenery, but actually it's more white water-river paddling than seakayaking. Of the experiences I had in my kayaking career paddling the Dutch Water Dreams-track comes closest to it.
Govert is the more experienced WW-kayaker of the two of us. He dealt amazingly well with his Dawntrader-seakayak, but he swam also a bit more than I - because he pushed it more to the limit than I did. That's what a "re-entry and roll-self rescue" is good for... And thanks to Justines' video we know that we needn't to be ashamed with our wet-exits: when even Axel and Freya do -> we are in good company ;-) Nevertheless we both decided to pick up ww-kayaking and to make an appointment for the DWD-track this summer. There was nobody to take pictures or to film of our adventures in the Falls of Lora - I only managed to make some shots at the more tranquil moments. The Falls of Lora truly deserve the titel of seakayakers' Nirvana!
Falls of Lora

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh

King Arthur and Sir Lancelot the Brave in the final scene of Monthy Python and the Holy Grail, Python Pictures Ltd, 1974

Yesterday I watched the DVD of Monty Python and the Holy Grail together with the kids. It's fascinating to notice that the 35 years old humour of Monty Python still appeals to modern teenagers. I had a great evening too, enjoying all time classics like discussions of coconuts and swallows, a black knight losing limbs, the knights who say Ni, the killer rabbit and the other great scenes. At the end of the film Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh looked suddenly very familiar: I recognized Castle Stalker near Fort Appin. Govert and I passed the picturesque castle in Loch Linnhe on the last day of our Scotland kayak-journey - at that moment not realizing to be paddling in the footsteps of Arthur and Lancelot, so close to the Holy Grail ;-)

Govert and Hans in the final stage of the Scotland-kayaktrip, Govert Plugge/Hans Heupink, 2008.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The surfspot on the "Bollen van de Ooster" aka "de Aardappelenbult"

No action pictures today because my beloved old Sony DSC-U60 underwatercamera refused to do its job. I am afraid it's getting time for a new water proof digital camera. Alas Sony doesn't produce a worthy successor, and I am not very impressed by the waterproof cameras of the other brands. Perhaps the new Pentax W60 - has anyone already tried this camera?

Wind was no more than force 3-4 Bft today, but after a week of westerly winds up to 5-6 Bft surf was good above the "Bollen van de Ooster" (also known as "de Aardappelenbult") a huge sandbank in the North sea, some miles west of Goeree. Nice about this spot is that you can approach it sheltered in the lee site and decide how far you want to go into the rough stuff.

Today I was here with 2 experienced (level 5 star) seakayakers. We arrived at the Aardappelenbult at high tide, the water level was about 1 meter above the sand. The waves coming from the North sea turned into surf over the sand, creating a hundreds of meters wide surf zone over a length of kilometres in the middle of the sea - a perfect play spot to train surfing and bracing skills. It's a long time ago I have had the conditions so good here. We had wonderful long rides over breaking waves, the GPS recorded speeds up to 2o kmh. It was the first time I paddled the
Anas Acuta in surfing conditions (I mostly paddle the Pintail at seatrips) and its performance was outstanding - it tracks good - no skeg needed, it's very responsive to edging and it's very manoeuvrable.

Some breaking waves were a bit awkward and one of the kayakers had wet exits in the surf zone. No problem - it's a quit safe spot. (It might take some time, but the water flows over the sand and brings the swimmer in calmer waters. The weather was fine: sunny, 20 degrees Celsius, water-temperature 18 degrees Celsius) - anyhow, a good occasion to train rescue skills in lively water. Towing a kayak with swimmer out of the surf zone is hard work, emptying a kayak in moving water in a x-rescue also. A note regarding kayak lay-out: a large cockpit design makes climbing in easier, but a high foredeck takes a lot of water when the kayak is turned over. Kayaks with large cockpits and a dayhatch often lack good decklines to grab direct in front and behind the cockpit (which makes handling the kayak and stabilizing the raft more difficult). The kayak in question was a Point65 XP, but the missing decklines over a big distance near the cockpit zone is something typical for more recent kayak-designs.

At the end of this summer recreation around the Bollen van de Ooster will become
more regulated. The complete sand will be a closed zone, even when it's flooded at high tide, and also for kayakers. There is one exception - exclusively for kayakers and windsurfers is a zone reserved at the most North-easterly tip of the "Bollen van de Ooster" (the area with the diagonal lines on the map -see below). We explored this zone today. It's a spot with good surfing conditions around high tide. I just wonder how the boundary to the closed zone will be marked: on the water you don't see any difference - it's just surf for kilometres...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Corryvreckan, Grey Dogs, Falls of Lora

Today I updated the 3rd report of the Scotland seakayak holiday. For readers that are interested in more background-information about the famous Scottish tidal races I referred to, useful weblinks are :
- The Falls of Lora Information Website by Tony Hammock;
- The Corryvreckan Whirlpool by Mike Murray - Corryvreckan Whirlpool Guide;
- Pictures of the Grey Dogs tidal race by David Philip;
- and don't forget the Seakayakphoto-weblog of Douglas Wilcox (search for the tagged items with Corryvreckan or Grey dogs)
Alas I can't cover this part of our journey with good own pictures. On these part of the trip both hands on the paddle were welcome ;-). And when I took the camera out, it immediately got wet, so the shots of the best action-moments are blurred and unsharp because of nasty drops on the lens.

For an action video of seakayaking in the Scottish tidal races: Justine Curgenven's DVD "This is the sea - part 3" covers the Falls of Lora and the Grey Dogs (click here for a preview - with a striking quote of Axel about what the Falls of Lora did to him ;-).

I suppose a "disclaimer" (or call it a little warning) is fitting here. You really can have fun with a seakayak in these places. And Govert and I did have a lot of fun! We had the unique experience of playing in the Grey Dogs with tide full running, paddling the boiling-pot and the eddy lines of the Corryvreckan 2 hours before slack water and were fighting the Falls of Lora at spring tide. We found this manageable -with 30 years of seakayaking and WW-experience together, but both without real local knowledge- but do realise we had the luck of relative calm conditions (no swell from the Atlantic and hardly any wind). And even so - these are serious and potentially dangerous waters that should always be dealt with respect! To paddle here you should be very experienced in handling rough water, be well equipped and know what to do in the case of an emergency. If you have any doubt about paddling here - be sensible and turn back. The wisest way to find your way here is to take a guide. In Oban you can find some experienced seakayak-coaches with a lot of local knowledge: ask them to take you out!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Modern kayak cockpit design - rolling the Tsunami120

Recently some enthusiast new members joined local kayakclub KV Wyrda. Together they form a group that is eager to learn - a pleasure to work with! Yesterday-evening I found myself teaching basic kayak-"control and safety"-skills to Maxime, Hetty, Nienke and Natascha in Reeuwijk. It was a fun and wet session: the water is warm and the weather is fine. All had a good laugh. The ladies were paddling the new club kayaks - type Wilderness Systems Tsunami 120. KV Wyrda expanded the fleet with these boats last month, to offer beginners a comfortable and stable, confidence-giving kayak to get into the sport.

I never paddled the Tsunami120 and actually only knew the boat from the pictures on the web. The beginners in the club have been paddling the Tsunamis for some weeks now. I was told that most like this boat because it's stable, comfortable and tracking well (on the placid waters around Woerden). Some of the beginners however, prefer the older club-kayaks because they are faster and paddle more effortless. Because the (PE-)Tsunami are more robust than the other club-kayaks and because I didn't plan to cover long distances with the group anyhow, I asked yesterday to take the Tsunamis to Reeuwijk.

At the end of the session I changed kayak with Nienke - It's important for a coach to place himself in the position of his pupils (in sport also physical) to understand what the pupil is feeling. It's fine to demonstrate kayak skills in the trusty seakayak, but does it work in a recreational-boat? I wanted to experience myself what the Tsunami feels like. Is this boat suited to learn leaning and edging? And in next lessons: for bracing and rolling? To be honest: my expectations weren't very high. The Tsunami is a short, wide kayak with a high deck and a padded seat with backrest that looks like an armchair. Perhaps the perfect boat for kayak-fishing or sunbathing, but not the first design that comes in my mind when I think about a kayak to learn people an active kayak-technique. As I slid in the kayak I noticed that I had underestimated the Tsunami seriously. The outfitting of the kayak invites to an active seating position and gives good support. It's easy to edge, it responds well and to my biggest surprise: it's unbelievable easy to roll. I was impressed in the five minutes I was paddling and rolling the Tsunami! This morning I went back to the clubhouse for a closer look and an ample rolling session.

The Tsunami is the "living proof" that a seating position with good contact/control is far more important than finesses in hull design. Despite the wider and flatter hull the Tsunami rolls easier than many (older) sea- ww- and greenlandkayak I paddled before. I am sure this is due to the modern ergonomic cockpit design that is incorporated in the Tsunami. Characteristics of this design are primary a wide and high position of the knees, combined with a low seat and well contoured thigh grips. The roomy seat brings also some advantage in rolling - some space to shift side to side is good. This "knees wide and high"-design has become standard in modern WW- and rodeo-kayaks - and is also getting more common in seakayaks: examples are the NDK Romany, the Explorer HV and the Rockpool Alaw - kayaks with a seating position that comes close to this principles . It's no coincidence that all these boats are known as good rollers (btw: there are surely more recent seakayaks with a similar cockpit design - these are such boats I know from personal experience...). It's a totally other philosophy than that behind the design of Greenland rolling kayaks (low deck, stretched legs, padded Masik (deck beam), snug fit).
The Greenland design is proven, for over thousand years. It's good - I won't detract from that. The "knees high and wide"-idea is perhaps ten years old. It shows that there is always potential in development -WW and rodeo ideas contribute to modern seakayaking.

It was fun Greenland rolling in the Tsunami. Looking at the pictures, you might think the high backrest hinders with layback rolls, but it doesn't: the backrest has a recline feature and tilts backwards when you lean on it. Forward endings rolls are no issue. The only downside with the clubkayaks is the miserable nylon sprayskirt. The sprayskirt looks tough, but gets loose every time you roll. So you end up rolling with an open cockpit full of water.