Sunday, March 29, 2009

NKB cold water training

6 People took the challenge to participate in the NKB Cold water training in the cold water (7 degrees Celsius) of the Voordelta today. It was good fun to train this group: in the beginning some of a hesitated a bit about all the wet-exercises I suggested, but soon everyone participated in full surrender. Some participants couldn't get enough...
Wind was blowing first 4 Bft. , later 3-4 Bft NW. Because of the wind earlier this week, surf was good. Wet exercises alternated with playing in the waves (zoekplaatje).
Just a minor point. The weather was almost too good: the bivouac was very relaxed... We made bivouac on the beach, because the sands we intended to visit were occupied by resting seals.

More pictures: click here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The first roll

This evening Jelle made his first roll with a paddle at the swimming pool-happening of the Alphense Kanovereniging de Kromme Aar. Jelle could already handroll the ww-kayak (left and right), but until yesterday he found rolling with a paddle a bit too confusing. Yesterday he got the hang out of rolling with a paddle - this video shows his 3rd or 4th unassisted attempt. Technique isn't perfect yet, but it's amazing to see how naturally Jelle changes to his off-side (left) when the roll on the on-side (right) fails. Kids learn so fast!

Friday, March 27, 2009

De Tantanus kwelling van de dag - "to tantalize" ?

In Greek mythology Tantalus (Greek Τάνταλος) was a son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto.The name "Tantalus" is the origin of the English word "tantalize". The idea being that when a person tantalizes someone else, that person is making them like Tantalus: there is something desirable that is always just out of that person's reach. In Dutch there is the expression: "een Tantalus kwelling" = a Tantalus torture.

My "Tantanus kwelling" this Friday: working indoors in a conference room in Carlton Beach Hotel Scheveningen with a view like this... Surf was perfect today. But Hans had another obligation. Duty called.

Fascination Greenland-style kayak

Piere Yves alerted me to this new Greenland-style rolling video of Piere Dominique with the Tahe Greenland kayak. I love this video!

It's a amazing to notice the (world-wide) enthusiast response on this Tahe kayak design. When I saw this kayak for the first time, last year in the showroom of the biggest Dutch Kayak-shop, the owner of the shop told me he didn't expect much of this kayak. In his opinion it was a kayak only suited for a very small limited specialist-community, not represented in the Netherlands. But also in the Netherlands there turned out to be serious interest in this traditional hard-chined Greenland style kayak.

Within just a few months, dozens of (rolling) video's with the Tahe Greenland appeared on Youtube. Nice Dutch ones also (tip on this video: turn the music of - sorry Peter ;-). The Tahe Greenland Kayak is closely related to the Black Pearl design of Björn Thomasson. Big difference is that the Black Pearl is a hand crafted tailor made design and the Tahe is a standard "one size fits most" design. Nothing will beat the feeling of a self made kayak custom designed, built to fit yourself!
This video clip of the Black Pearl shows it is not only suited for rolling tricks.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Olympus mju 6000 Tough at sea...

Wangerooge was a good occasion to play with the new Waterproof Olympus camera. This is the kind of activity I bought this camera for. I shot a lot of pictures this weekend on and of the water. The Picasa slideshow shows a selection. How does the camera perform in kayak-practice? My reference is the Sony DSC-U60.

What I really like about the Olympus is the very usable zoom-range from 28-105 mm (35mm eq.) that covers most situations. Brilliant is the incorporated automatic lens cover - this prevents quite effectively (but not completely) drops on the lens. The large LCD-screen is even in full sun good to see. The camera fits perfect in the pockets of my PFD (Kokatat MsFit). The buttons are small, but the essential ones (on/off, shutter release, zoom) are surprisingly easy to use, even with frozen hands (with gloved hands the on/off button is difficult to find). The control wheel on the back of the camera (used to select various shooting and playback modes) is a little too easily moved when taking the camera in and out of a pocket for example. Sometimes you find the camera in video- or playback mode when you want to take a picture. The lens is set high and to the left of the camera so I ended up with some shots with an edge of a finger in front of the lens.
I find the picture quality acceptable - not perfect - in standard conditions (OK: I am quit critical in this point). Low light performance is bad: a lot of noise at any ISO above 200. In sunny situations the camera tends to a bit over-exposure: but in P-mode the camera is easy to tweak - a correction with -0,3 stops helps.

The biggest problem of the Olympus however is its sluggish performance. Start up time, focus time and cycle time (from one picture to the next) are slow. This really is a serious drawback for a point and shoot camera that you want to use for action photography. I missed several good picture moments this weekend because the camera wasn't ready... Disappointing for a modern camera: the 5 year old Sony is much faster!

Overall I am quit pleased with the Olympus - despite it's sluggish performance and some issues with picture quality, I still prefer it above the Sony because it's much more versatile (and because of the incorporated lens cover).

Monday, March 23, 2009

UBO's on Spiekeroog: Bothy Bags

UBO = Unindentified Beach Object

This weekend several UBO's were sighted on the beach of the German isle Spiekeroog. Close to each UBO's were 4 or 5 lonely kayaks. No paddlers to be seen.

After extensive research these strange objects on Spiekeroog turned out to be "Bothy Bags" or "Kisu's": portable shelters made of waterproof nylon just big enough to accommodate two persons sitting together protected from the harsh environment. Larger ones accommodate 4,6, 8, 12 or more persons. In the United Kingdom "Bothy Bags" are a quit familiar survival equipment, but on the continent they are rather unknown. Outdoor shops in the Netherlands and Germany don't sell them. Unfortunately, as they are a brilliant piece of kit!

While the other groups that stranded on the sand tried to create protection against the chilly wind by putting kayaks on the side, by digging holes in the sand and were improvising with bivy or emergency bags, the groups with a bothy bag simply pulled the bothy bag over their heads and were protected against the cold wind: fast, simple and very effective!

The body heat of 4 or 5 people soon creates a warm local environment and provides protection from the threat of hypothermia and wind chill. Very cosy inside. And you also feel very isolated from the environment/outside world: it's not a "room with a view..."

A bothy bag is a very simple concept. It is nothing more really than a very big waterproof nylon bag. The front usually has one or more windows and the back usually has one or more vents.
Using one is very simple; you take it out of it's pack sack and put it over your head(s). Typically the base of the bag has a drawstring closure that will help stop it flying off. Larger ones may have interior handles.
A bag will typically be made out of 100% waterproof non-breathable nylon and have taped seams. The better ones are effectively frameless tents.
Using a bothy bag will provide you with some warmth and shelter. Condensation may well be a problem but it is assumed that you will carry on wearing all your normal outdoor gear and use them to stay dry.

A one-person bag weighs around 300g and a 4-person bag weighs around 400g. 300g is lighter than most plastic bivy bags and 400g is lighter than almost all single-man bivy bags. For the low-weight and weather protection provided they are an essential part of any autumn/winter pack.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SAU Spring Cleaning 2009

It was a long drive home: I just returned from the so called "Spring Cleaning"-weekend workshop of the German Seakayak association "Salzwasserunion". The Spring Cleaning is a training Weekend on the Isle of Wangerooge for (to be) instructors, tour-guides, and experienced seakayakers. This year the main topic was "group control in demanding conditions". Here are my first impressions of a great weekend. More on it later this week. Marieke, Rebecca, Nico and I were the four Dutch NKB-participants on the Spring Cleaning.

The workshop started on Friday afternoon on the crossing from Harlesiel to Wangerooge with role plays on group control. The members of the groups received secret instructions to make life hard for the group-leaders. Instructions and roles changed multiple times during the crossing. All this took place under a fantastic sunset and evening sky on a calm Waddensea. The last leg in darkness under a starry sky.

Saturday's program consisted of exercises on managing rescue situations on moving water, followed by an extremely wet event: a competition on manoeuvring, rolling, swimming with the kayak and re-entry on rough water. Exposed to water temperature 5 degrees, air temperature 8 degrees Celsius and wind blowing 4-5 Bft - one of the moments you really appreciate a good drysuit!
picture made by Christian Harms

Sunday the leaders of the groups were tested under real life conditions: the mission the leaders got was to guide the groups safe to the mainland, while the tidal current was still outgoing and the wind was blowing NW 6 Bft. A demanding task (and a fun sea to paddle ;-)!

Thanks to Bernhard Hillejan for the organisation!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Black Pearl

Ren'e and I had a great day with Stef and Monique, admiring, paddling and rolling Moniques' wonderful Black Pearl kayak (in white). Even the slender Anas Acuta looks voluminous, side to side to this gracious Black Pearl!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In the Dutch Mountains (2) - MTB Nedereindseberg

I was standing in the valley of rock
up to my belly in an early fog
I was looking for the road to a green painted house
in the Dutch mountains

Lyrics In the Dutch Mountains - the Nits, 1987

Since he has got a new mountain bike, fellow paddler Alex invites me to explore the MTB-tracks in the region. Today we biked on the "Nedereindse berg" in Nieuwegein. In a country without mountains old dumps, landfills are used for mountainbiking (and skiing).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Inspection of the Linschotenroute

The first spring day with temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius, was a perfect excuse for Paul, Alex, Jaap and me to do the yearly inspection of the kayakroute Woerden-Montfoort-Oudewater. In commission of the adminstrator of the route KV Wyrda inspects the route every year on missing signs, broken scaffolds and so on. In Dutch this is called: "het aangename met het nuttige verenigen".

Sunday, March 08, 2009

In the Dutch Mountains (1) - NKBV Bergsportdag

I was born in the valley of bricks
where the river runs high above the rooftops
I was waiting for the cars coming home late at night
from the Dutch mountains

Lyrics "In the Dutch Mountains" - the Nits, 1987

Jelle and I visited the regional "Bergsportdag" of the NKBV at the indoor climbing hall Rock Steady in Bussum. It's amazing that climbing is a bigger sport than kayaking in our little country that lacks mountains...
And in the continuing story of "You're getting older daddy" - a weird sensation, remarkable moment: now that Jelle's (14 year old) feet fit my old climbing shoes, he immediately out-climbs his father...

Update March, 14th. - tomorrow - Sunday, March, 15th. - the NKBV Bergsportdag 2009 is in Nieuwegein - the Bergsportdag is the biggest mountainering show, meeting etc. in the Netherlands - free entrance..

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Rolling in slow-motion

In high speed mode the Olympus Tough 6000 captures 24 pictures at 4,8 frames per second. The picture quality in high speed mode is reduced to 3 Megapixels, not impressive but still acceptable for web-applications. This film of Sido demonstrating a forward ending roll, gives a good impression of the speed of the camera. The film is made from 24 single pictures. Video compression has dramatically reduced image quality - the quality of the original pictures is much better.

PS: in video mode the camera captures 30 fps, but picture quality in video mode is only VGA (640x480).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Olympus mju Tough 6000 - first impressions

The Olympus commercial shows the mju 725 SW - a predecessor of my new mju Tough 6000

After having doubted a long time, I recently bought a successor for the trusty Sony DSC-U60 Waterproof Digital Camera. My Sony dates from 2004. In the dynamic world of digital camera's it's a real oldtimer with prehistoric specifications (2 MP, non-zoom, 1.0-inch LCD-monitor). I was always very pleased by the handling and the performance of the Sony. Despite its simple and basic design, it produces fantastic pictures. But - although 2 megapixel is enough for most purposes (web is not critical - printwork: pictures made with the Sony are published on the cover of Kanosport-magazine) - a bit more resolution would of course be welcome (just to be able to crop pictures without big loss of quality), as well as a zoom option, a decent burst- and video-mode (all features that the Sony lacks) would be.

Unfortunately Sony stopped making underwater-camera's after the DSC-U60. The only manufacturers that continued to put serious effort in developing a range of waterproof (WP) digital camera's are Pentax and Olympus. Though both offer better specifications and more sophisticated features, for a long time I wasn't convinced by the Pentax and Sony camera's. I know a lot of kayakers who are very content with their Pentax or Olympus WP-camera's. I examined a huge number of pictures taken with these camera's and found the picture-quality often disappointing (from a technical point of view..). I do suppose I am too critical ;-) And I hesitated a long time to replace the Sony. But I also noticed that more recent versions of the Pentax and Olympus camera's do perform better - and finally a recent comparison of the Pentax W60 and the Olympus Mju 1030 in a review on persuaded me to buy a new WP-camera. Getting hands on both the Pentax and the Sony, I finally decided to go for the Olympus - the main argument is the built-in lens cover: a big plus on the water because this cover prevents quite effective blurred pictures by water-drops on the lens.

At the very moment I decided to buy the Olympus mju 1030, Olympus released two new WP camera's: the mju tough 6000 and 8000. While the 8000 replaces the 1030, the 6000 inherits the specifications of the 1030: 10 MP, 28-102 mm eq. zoom range and some improvements like a larger built-in memory. The 8000 is upgraded to a 12 MP-camera, which is not actual an advantage on a compact-camera: the ridiculous race for megapixels is at the expense of the low-light performance of the tiny CCD's (resulting in a lot of noise in every setting above ISO 200)- and for sharpness/details lens quality is much more an issue than 6 or 12 MP is... Olympus claims the 8000 to be more waterproof than the 6000 (waterproof to a depth of 10 meters resp. 3 meters), but the construction of critical points (like the doors of the battery compartment and for the external connections) looks identical. I took the chance and saved 80 Euros and bought the Olympus Mju tough 6000.

First impressions after 4 weeks snap-shooting: Technically the Olympus is a brilliant camera and compared to the old Sony it's a giant step forward:
- a zoom range from really wide to light tele (much more versatile!);
- a large and bright LCD (composing is no guess anymore, even in sunlight!);
- impressive picture to picture speed in the burst mode (great to analyse kayak techniques!);
- a decent video mode (30 fps, VGA - almost 10 minutes on a 1 GB card);
- simple, direct and fast accessible menu's to adjust camera settings (flash-mode, ISO, exposure compensation etc.).
What I like less about the Olympus:
- the handling: it's OK but the ergonomics of the Sony are still unbeaten. In some aspect stylish design of the Olympus prevailed above function: buttons are tiny and the flat rectangular shape hinders a bit in one hand use;
- speed: actually I expected this to be better with such a modern camera, but start-up and focus-time aren't noticeably faster than those of the Sony. Pre-focused however shutter lag isn't noticeable.
- metering and exposure: this really is a bit of a disappointment because it affects picture quality. The Olympus can deliver really fine pictures, but sometimes pictures are seriously over- or under-exposed. Olympus programmed a complex Matrix-metering mode for exposure which I find up to now quit unpredictable. In P-mode under- and over-exposure are easy to correct with exposure compensation, but on the water I don't want to bother with that: I want good pictures right out of the box! While the Sony works fine in standard settings in 90% of the situations, I think the Olympus does in 70 %. In 30% of the other situation I had to tweak the camera-settings. I am working on getting a better understanding of the Olympus matrix metering, so I can anticipate -I am sure I can learn this - but this isn't what you expect on a point and shoot camera!

1. Perhaps I was to impulsive: shortly after I bought the Olympus, Panasonic, Canon and Fuji announced new WP camera's. From the information on the web the Canon and Fuji look very interesting to me: the Canon because of it's design that looks more ergonomically with curved shapes (and it looks like the lens is right in front of the CCD- which is a good premise for optical quality!). The Fuji because I was always very impressed by the picture quality of the Fuji digital camera's I've had...

2. On a budget? The Olympus 850SW is an interesting offer - it's a discontinued model - the predecessor of the Tough 6000 - now discounted at prices around 150 Euro. Biggest differences compared to the Tough 6000: only 8 MP (=no disadvantage!), zoom range 38-112 mm eq. (less wide angle), limited video and burst mode performance (only 10 seconds video in high quality mode).