Friday, February 27, 2009

A drizzling day

I planned a workout on the bike this morning, but as I put it out of the garage it was drizzling. As I didn't feel like cleaning the bike again this afternoon, I postponed the bike-workout and went to the boathouse of KV Wyrda to paddle. Biking is for tomorrow - the weekend is going to be dry? I hope so!

I played around with the new camera and checked speed differences between Wing-paddling and the standard Euro-blade with the GPS. Resulting in some "utterly useless information":

Distances from Kayakclub KV Wyrda Woerden:
Groepenbrug/Limesbrug: 3 km;
Putkop: 6 km;
Hofbrug: 7 km;
Harmelen (Haanwijkersluis): 7,5 km (single route).

Not surprising: the wing paddle is more efficient than a traditional euro-blade - average touring speed in a seakayak proves to be about 5-10 % higher with the Wing.

The reconstruction of Haanwijkersluis is delayed, it doesn't look like the work will be finished in April. Passage from Woerden to Utrecht - a portage - is awkward. Due to the construction works it's hardly manageable for one person alone with a kayak.

Update March, 1st.
It was a good decision to put off biking till the weekend: Saturday was dry and Sunday was just like spring: biked in shorts today, the legs exposed to sunshine for the first time of the year! (sorry for the milk-bottles ;-)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The ultimate (kayak?) handbook

Strategically timed around Christmas last year was the edition of the “Handboek digitale fotografie” from Frans Barten: the most comprehensive work on Digital Photography available, a masterpiece of almost 750 pages, a book weighting 3,5 kg. It's part of the long tradition of handbooks of Focus-publishers that began with the handbooks of father Adriaan and son Dick de Boer in the first half of last century. Bartens' book is used as textbook in the education-path of professional photographers on Dutch photography academies.

In the NKB-courses for sea-kayak-instructors students often ask for a reader or a handbook that covers all relevant aspects of sea-kayak-coaching. Despite all the efforts made by several Dutch kayak-coaches there isn't one that is comprehensive and up to date. With a bit of envy (but above all: with great respect!) I look at our neighbors in Britain, where the BCU offers something that comes very close to the ultimate handbook on (sea-)kayak-coaching: the combination of the BCU Canoe and Kayak Handbook and the BCU Coaching Handbook. As the British approach comes close to our Dutch philosophy on teaching (sea)kayaking, these books are also great resources for our students. But I do realize English language is an issue for some of them.

Lacking the one and only "ultimate handbook" - we must look for other resources. And although this is (admittedly) motivated by the need, I think not relying on one big textbook is also an approach which fits better in a modern way of learning. Yes, 30 years ago - eager as I was as a young boy to learn the great art of B&W darkroom-work - I spelled the "Handboek Vergrooten" word for word. But today I can't imagine my kids doing so, learning in a similar way. New media - DVD's, articles and video's on the web, pictures in magazines, games are a welcome addition to wisdom from books - and changed the way of learning completely. Changes come so rapidly. I learned the B&W-skills out of a book given to me by my granddad. The book dates from 1940 and I used it in the early 70's. Despite the sometimes weird Old Dutch spelling - the content was still adequate at that time. The lifetime circle of Bartels' book will be a bit shorter, I suppose.

Still being part of the generation that is grown up with and still fascinated by printed media - I recognize my own style of learning has also changed. I still buy lots of handbooks, but I hardly read them from begin to end anymore. An kayak-related example is the way I learned (teaching) Greenland-style-rolling. It started with a book: I was reading the article of Greg Stamer in John Heaths' book Eastern Arctic Kayaks. Then I met Freya and did my first workshop with her. But the rest and the more advanced rolls I learned by watching the DVD's of Dubside, surfing the web - reading online-articles and watching videos on and (Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson) and a lot of little notes on a great number of kayakweblogs.

There is so much good and actual information available in this digital world - it would be a pity to focus on the one and only handbook… The NKB is working on getting more resources accessible for sea-kayak-students. You can find some resources on the download page of NKB-Zeevaren. But don't expect a new Handbook of us please - it will be more a kind of a guide to find your way.

Of course you don't learn (teaching) kayaking (or photography-work) only from a book. You don't learn kayaking or photography from the web either: skills come with practice, a lot of practice - which is actually the biggest part of the fun!

Said this, for those who want to continue learning about kayaking by reading books ;-) Pesda Press brings out a series of really good ones. The next one is soon to come: Sea kayak Handling by Doug Cooper. I am looking forward to it!

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Solo - Lost at sea" on BBC2 next Sunday

Next Sunday, Feb. 22th, 22.00 (Continental Time GMT+1) on BBC2 "Solo - Lost at sea" the National Geographic documentary about Andrew McAuleys' tragically ended crossing of the Tasman Sea last year will be broadcast. Last year the documentary was announced on National Geographic, but it didn't appear in the Dutch schedules of NG.

A mysterious folly on the river "de Lek"

In architecture, a folly is a building constructed strictly as a decoration, having none of the usual purposes of housing or sheltering associated with a conventional structure. They originated as decorative accents in parks and estates. "Folly" is used in the sense of fun or light-heartedness, not in the sense of something ill-advised.

Along the river Lek we discovered this landmark made by some unknown artist. Despite it's medieval appearance it wasn't there last time we passed by here. It must have been quit an effort to build this object on a groyne (NL: krib) at the riverbank.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In the eye of the beholder - Moniques' Black Pearl

Pictures by Stef

Talking about "win-win situations": popular management speak, a buzzword - often used improperly. Seldom it's reality. About a year ago in Zeeland in the kitchen of Monique and Stef however a real win-win situation occurred. Monique told me she was about to realize her dream to build her own custom tailored Greenland kayak - and to create room for the new kayak, Stef and Monique were looking for a new owner for their Anas Acuta - which made a dream come through for me: resulting in the marvellous white Anas Acuta with blue stripes figuring on a lot of pictures in this weblog ;-)

A year later: Monique has finished her Greenland kayak - the Black Pearl, a Björn Thomasson design. Monique and Stef have done a great job. Read this personal impression of a happy owner of a fantastic playful greenland style kayak.

Monique says:

It is easy, so easy to describe the whole thing in superlatives and only very positive superlatives.
It is in the starry-eyed beholder, it is in the moon gaze and that is why it is impossible to give an objective view. How do I begin to find words to explain? Bear with me, show some patience, and forgive this moon starry gaze.

Despite our choice of colour the kayak-design is called Black Pearl (BP). Colour or names (“boat”?) do not really matter, for starry eyed beholders. So here we go, a few experiences of a newly born BP with a newly introduced Greenland style paddler………….
This BP has first carried me on rather flattish secluded water. It feels comfortable, stable enough and believe it or not, very reassuring. This reassurance and trustworthiness surprised me in a silently knowing way. Could I feel the same in a similar factory made type? I doubt it, the whole process of piecing together your own kayak, made to your own body size, is such that for some inexplicable reason this kayak has soul, it is imbued with strong intimate bonds and personal knowledge of every strip and corner, every overall weakness and strength. Can this only be felt by the builder/paddler? I believe so….. I warned you: this would be a starry-eyed perspective…..

Then time came to leave the secluded water and enter a bigger tub (Oosterschelde). First strokes felt intimidating and exciting at the same time, which one was it going to be? After 10 minutes I needed to scull and roll (cowboy way, no elegant water-ballet from this paddler). Getting my head down, literally, feeling cold fresh sea directly on face and on hands liberated me of a daunting freeze inside. This astonishing effect of winter sea is probably one of the best kept secrets in Western Europe.
Stef and I were in the company of our kayaks, several swarms of silver-bellied birds dancing away in a blue frosty sky and clear sun. What more do you want? “Here we are big tub! BP is coming to explore”! BP turns easy and gracefully; it slides through the sea like a hot knife in a bar of butter, even in shallow water (watch the oysters). BP is light, nimble and agile. It reacts directly to a 3/4L hot water bottle rolling in the back hatch and to any hip or small toe movement. Perhaps if I smoked and ran out of tobacco, would I (would I? I wish!) be able to paddle 27-28 km in 1 hour or less? (See page 102 of “Eastern Arctic Kayaks”). Not nearly now or in a long time anyway… but someone somehow somewhere did it, so I can try… Would I be able to play and roll in rough waves? Not nearly now but someone somehow somewhere………

But for now shoreline got further away and the boundaries of reassurance dawned. I am still very much in the trial and error stage (and will be for a long while) because I found my brain gently pointing out, “get your mental crutches girl: shallower sea and comforting shoreline!” The moment I turned BP towards shore brain (being subjected to steep learning curves) eased up on me…………taking baby steps will give me personal giant progression. The connection is there, the freedom is there, the bond can only grow stronger.

(For some specific statistics on this BP you can look at and for general info )

Thanks to Monique for the English report!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A postponed new years paddle

small passage along the ice on "de Oude Rijn"

Today I paddled for the first time this year in Woerden - my home base. Ice has prevented any kayaking activities over here since more than 6 weeks. As a matter of fact: it still does. Before I could reach the open "Oude Rijn", I had to plough myself a way through the ice by playing icebreaker for over 2 km's in the Singel of Woerden (Singel = a ring shaped canal, often part of the fortification of old Dutch towns). Loud noise of breaking ice disrupted the Sunday rest in Woerden this afternoon.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A dry session: NKB expert-clinic kayak skills

Video courtesy of Piet van Mil

No water needed to learn and teach kayaking!

Piet made this nice video-report of the NKB expert-clinic held last Saturday. Thanks Piet, I couldn't come to the clinic (alas)- but your video gives a great impression.
Essential for the new competence-driven pathway for NKB-Coaching development is the availability of a range of expert-clinics for the trainee-coaches. Thanks to Nico Middelkoop for the brilliant initiative of a clinic for the trainees, dedicated on the core skills of kayaking!

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Royal Blog

Just a little curiosity: the "Expedition Weblog" of "the big inspirer for all Dutch water-professionals" -> His Royal Highness Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand, Prince of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau and Jonkheer van Amsberg.

The Prince, Princess Maxima and the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Plasterk are visiting southern Chile and the Antarctic to be informed about Arctic and Glacial Research in relation to Climate issues for the Netherlands. Prince Alexander combines personal impressions with interesting links to the work of the British Antarctic Survey.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Kayak boys dress up...

Hans is going kayaking! What should he wear? Dress your kayak boy up on dressupgames8 ;-0)

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Jeff Alan has written an article on kayaker's essential dress in issue nr. 13 of Ocean Paddler Magazine. In recent times the dress code amongst Dutch kayakers is changing rapidly: on the Voordelta-trip last week I was surprised to meet 6 kayakers of which 5 were dressed in drysuits and only 1 in a neoprene long john three-quarters wet-suit. Which is quit amazing: only a year ago the rate drysuit-wetsuit would have been reversed! The combination of a neoprene long john, an insulating garment on the upper body, covered by a long sleeved paddle top has been the Dutch standard for years. Also in winter.

4 kayak boys - according to the latest fashion dressed up in Kokatat-Drysuits (nr. 5 joined later).

In his excellent article Jeff describes some pros and cons of drysuit and wetsuits. Where serious risk exists of coming in contact with hard abrasive objects like rocks, Jeff wears a wetsuit. The Achilles' heel of the drysuit is it's vulnerability to tears and punctures. Big advantages are the comfort and the high grade of dry insulation.

The Drysuit creates a new discussion theme for Dutch paddlers: what to wear underneath? Most agree with the principle of a combination of a garment with good wicking ability (= moving sweat away from the skin to the outer surface of the fabric) next to the skin, covered by an insulating layer. Number and thickness of the layers is a personal thing - in search for balance between roasting while paddling and sufficient insulation for the (unintended) swim. I swear to technical underwear (like Helly Hansen or Odlo) in combination with (depending on the conditions) a thick or thin layer of fleece.
The Merino wool solution of the Icebreaker garments is a welcome alternative for one day trips. The wool combines good wicking and insulation capacities, keeps you warm, doesn't itch, can hold a good amount of moisture before it begins to feel damp and smells less. This is almost perfect - but just almost: I experienced that (due to it's absorbing capacities) it takes much longer to dry Merino wool than to dry "technical" garment. On multiple day trips in cold and humid conditions this is in mine opinion a serious disadvantage of the Merino wool option: Merino wool is still humid next day, while the technical garments are dry..(the second disadvantage is the price tag...)